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Police were caught off guard Tuesday evening when they transferred the task of evacuating the three settlements in the northern Gaza Strip to the existing IDF forces in the area, on the assumption that all of the three settlements would be virtually empty of settlers.
By Tuesday evening, Dugit was totally empty and soldiers could be seen dismantling several structures at the seaside settlement.
Residents of Nisanit held a parting ceremony at the settlement, and only a handful of settlers are expected to stay until they are evacuated.
But police had not taken into account the remaining 61 families of Elei Sinai, who on Tuesday said they were not leaving voluntarily because their deal with the Disengagement Authority [SELA] had fallen through. Twenty-seven settler families have already left Elei Sinai, leaving 61.
Police spokespeople said they had not heard from SELA that the deal to move all the remaining Elei Sinai settlers en masse to several Ashkelon hotels had fallen through, and were not changing their decision to transfer the task of evacuating the settlement to the IDF.
SELA was not available for comment.
Lt.-Cmdr. Hagai Dotan, head of the police evacuation unit for the northern Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post that security forces expected Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit to be empty by Tuesday night. Dotan was surprised to hear there were still 61 families remaining at the site. He offered no further comment, and would not reevaluate his assessment to this reporter.
Several other police officials were also surprised to hear that so many families had decided to stay.
Dotan maintained that he was confident the IDF forces in the Elei Sinai area could handle the evacuation of the settlement on their own. Dotan said there were a few, perhaps only three families, who would remain in Nisanit until they were evacuated.
Earlier Tuesday, Elei Sinai residents locked the main gate to the community and barricaded it with an old Subaru. They also burned several tires adjacent to the gate so that the settlement's children could burn old Ariel SharonLikud election posters.
"It's a small protest gesture," resident Sa'ar Berger told the Post.
Berger said that on Monday a SELA representative came to Elei Sinai and offered its residents permanent homes as far away as the Dead Sea. Berger said that this was not an option since the settlement did not want to split up, adding that a few of the settlers had businesses in the area and could not run them from the Dead Sea.
Avi Farhan, a Yamit evacuee and founder of Elei Sinai, denied all media reports in recent days that settlement residents had reached an agreement with SELA and would be leaving by Tuesday night for several Ashkelon hotels.
Farhan told the Post that no agreement with SELA was reached because the latter could not guarantee that residents would be allowed to stick together after they were evacuated. According to Farhan, Elei Sinai and SELA reached an agreement two weeks ago whereby the entire settlement would be moved en masse to several Ashkelon hotels.
Farhan added that a SELA official came to the settlement on Monday and said there was not enough space for all the residents at the Ashkelon hotels, and that some of them would have to be moved elsewhere.
Like most of the remaining settlers, Farhan and Berger have packed all of their belongings and are ready to leave when the evacuating troops arrive. According to police sources, Elei Sinai will be evacuated Wednesday.
Farhan added bitterly that it was only the security forces, and no other government agency, who were ready for disengagement. "They have gathered all the intelligence on us. Just like they prepare for war," an emotional Farhan, who received his evacuation orders on Monday, said.
The government, he added, had been busy largely with psychological warfare, and not with finding solutions