First groups board buses in Morag, Neveh Dekalim

Neveh Dekalim and Morag main focus of evacuation effort. 'Post' reporters file from throughout Gaza.

israel3 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Evacuation efforts focused on Morag and Neveh Dekalim late Wednesday morning. At Morag, evacuating forces were removing residents from the synagogue, facing only passive resistance. The settlement's kindergarten was evacuated after prayers were said and residents ripped their shirts in a sign of mourning. In Neveh Dekalim, forces are going house to house but most residents are leaving peacefully. The Defense establishment has reached a deal with Gush Katif residents that any who agree to leave within the next few hours will be able to leave in their personal vehicles instead of on buses. Ten of Gaza's 21 settlements are slated for evacuation on Wednesday. They are: Neveh Dekalim, Morag, Ganei Tal, Netzer Hazani, Tel Katifa, Atmona, Bedolah, Gadid, Katif and Shirat Hayam. Four are already empty: Nisanit, Dugit, Pe'at Sadeh and Rafiah Yam. Neveh Dekalim: Thousands of infiltrators gathered at the synagogue and at the ulpana, or girls' school, of the settlement, leaving the streets to the residents who were mostly waiting inside their homes. About three-quarters of the homes were not evacuated on their own. Evacuating forces are currently going into houses. Each squad carries maps of the internal layout of the houses they are entering, including information about the residents of each house. Most residents are leaving quietly. In a very few cases, people had to be forced on to the bus. At 10:15, a battalion commander ordered forces to begin collecting the people walking in the streets. "They're bothering the residents who want to leave," he said. Inside some of the evacuated houses, workers were dismantling furniture inside the houses in order to move it. There is almost no dialogue between the forces and the residents and activists. The evacuating force entered Neveh Dekalim, the first settlement slated for evacuation, at 8:11 a.m., and headed toward the main road of the settlement. The unarmed force included border policemen, IDF soldiers, and regular police. A forced-entry cell from the army's Home Front Command accompanied the force. About 300 families and nearly 3,000 infiltrators were waiting for the forces in the large synagogue, Army Radio reported. Some of the benches were cleared out of the building to allow more people to enter. 300 of 520 families remain. Arieh O'Sullivan and Tovah Lazaroff reporting from the scene. Morag: In the isolated settlement of Morag, near Gush Katif, the evacuating forces have gathered and are preparing to remove the residents. Forces are getting ready to evacuate the synagogue where 150 residents are singing and praying, including Morag's chief rabbi Yitzhak Wasserman. Troops surrounded the local kindergarten where the children and the kindergarten teachers were sitting outside in the garden. Parents, with babies in their arms, sang psalms while the men tore their clothes in a sign of mourning. The parents and children were led onto one of the buses sent to take them away. Other residents have barricaded themselves in the second floors of their homes and have hammered metal sheets onto doors and windows to prevent entry. Trash cans and tires have been set on fire by settlers opposing the evacuation. Warnings of a sniper threat from the nearby Palestinian areas have led police to ask those settlers who had climbed to the rooftops of houses to come down. Soldiers are also reportedly preparing to deal with mortar attacks after rumors spread that there is a mortar attack warning. One activist was caught with chemical substances and "ninjas," nails meant to blow the tires of cars carrying evacuating forces. He was arrested and detained for questioning. One of the evacuating female soldiers started crying and collapsed. Settlers gathered around her, saying, "well done, you have a healthy mind." At the entrance to Morag, settlers poured oil, placed rocks, and laid barricades of barbed wire, debris and branches. Police say they attempted to reach an agreement with settlers. Negotiations failed and the settlers are refusing to evacuate willingly. Yaakov Katz and Margot Dudkevitch reporting from the scene. Ganei Tal: A few minutes ago, evacuating forces entered Ganei Tal. A few lone resistors tried to stop the force's entrance. The IDF has agreed with settlement leaders that soldiers will knock on doors and give the families a few hours to pack their things. The settlers have agreed to volutarily leave by early afternoon. Overall, there was little resistance to the force's entry. Ganei Tal's most famous resident MK Zvi Hendel (National Union), told Army Radio early Wednesday, "I haven't started to pack. Emotionally I can't, not my home and not my possessions. So I've hired a company to do it," Hendel said. 57 families out of 85 remain. Matthew Gutman reporting from the scene. Atzmona: Yeshiva students have reached an agreement with security forces that they will leave at 1 p.m. Construction and Housing Minister Isaac Herzog told Israel Radio he was working on a deal for the residents. Netzer Hazani: Army Radio reported that 46 families remain in the settlement, slated for evacuation on Wednesday. Those families are planning to enter the community synagogue, where the men will wrap themselves in tallit. They plan to wait for the army to physically remove them, in an effort to "create difficult images." 46 families out of 70 remain. Tel Katifa: Evacuating forces set to enter the settlement shortly. Bedolah: IDF troops entered the southern Gaza settlement, where some 100 people are in the settlement, most of whom are not residents. Bedolah representatives had reached an agreement with commanders of the battalion that came to evacuate them that the evacuation would be non-violent, but would also be unwilling.