Analysis: Amona is just the beginning [pg. 2]

The tightly-formed lines of security forces backed up by cavalry and water cannons and moving into the illegal outpost of Amona at first light Wednesday gave the impression that the IDF was a well-oiled machine standing not for Israel Defense Forces but for Israel Disengagement Forces. The same commanders who oversaw the evacuation from Gush Katif this past summer were back in full body gear on Wednesday, called up from their various positions across the country to once again take the reins in what turned into the most violent evacuation yet. But with 86 policemen injured and settlers claiming over 250 hurt from excessive police force, both sides reached the same conclusion - Wednesday's encounter on the isolated Samaria hilltop called Amona was just the beginning. The police and the army tried their best to minimize violence. In the morning, while sitting at the entrance to the outpost waiting for the High Court's decision, senior officers said they would do all they could to keep the number of casualties as low as possible. But that goal was not shared by the right-wing activists holed up inside the nine homes slated to be razed. At 4 a.m., upon hearing of the Yesha settler council's petition to the High Court, dozens of activists gathered around veteran settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein and branded him a "devil and a snake" while chanting "We want war, we want war." "The settlers wanted blood," said one senior officer while standing in front of the homes as they were being demolished. "That is what they asked for and that is what they got." This past summer in Gush Katif, officers reminisced Wednesday, was a different process from the events in Amona. In Gaza, the settlers didn't break the law and deserved to be treated with patience and sympathy during the pullout. The youth activists in Amona, however, were mostly from West Bank settlements and were of a different breed that refused to listen to or heed any figure of authority. On Wednesday, the settler leaders tried to restrain the stone-throwing and the violence, but were met by young adults who seemed more concerned with the violent fight than with what its impact would be on Israeli society. As the afternoon kicked in and the dust settled, officers confirmed that while the evacuation was violent, it was the level of violence they expected - stone throwing, fisticuffs and clashes, but not gunfights or stabbings. Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi defended his police force Wednesday night and told Channel 2 that the "force used by police was a response to the level of violence they encountered by the settlers." But with the level of violence clearly escalating from evacuation to evacuation, IDF commanders said they planned to sit and study the events at Amona to see if there was room to improve their performance and to come up with ideas on how they could next time better suppress the violence. With additional evacuations on the horizon, one officer said, they desperately needed to do so.