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Israel breaks main resistance to Gaza pullout
Updated: 2005-08-19 13:47

Israeli forces cleared the last Jewish settlers and protesters from Gaza resistance strongholds on Friday, breaking the back of their opposition to ending nearly four decades of occupation, reported Reuters.

The army said it had finished evacuating Neve Dekalim, the biggest settlement, and Kfar Darom, scene of the worst clashes between security forces and opponents of uprooting the first enclaves from land that Palestinians seek for a state.

Israel breaks main resistance to Gaza pullout
Opponents of Israel's disengagement plan try to prevent Israeli security forces from reaching the rooftop of a synagogue in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, in the Gush Katif settlements bloc, southern Gaza Strip, August 18, 2005. Israeli troops using cranes and water cannon battled protesters on the rooftop of a Gaza settlement synagogue on Thursday as they assaulted the last bastions of resistance to evacuation of the occupied strip. [Reuters]
On Thursday, police used cranes and water cannon to battle protesters on the roof of Kfar Darom's synagogue. They fought back with rocks, paint-filled light bulbs and acid. The army said 31 security personnel were hurt.

Pullout opponents were also dragged kicking and screaming from Neve Dekalim's synagogue after troops moved in.

"I am totally exhausted, but it has not been for nothing," said protester Shlomit Binyamin, 17, in Neve Dekalim. "I hope the people of Israel will ensure there will be no more disengagement. We must continue the fight."

Israel breaks main resistance to Gaza pullout
A Jewish settler screams at Israeli troops while carrying her child to an evacuation bus in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, in the Gush Katif settlements bloc, in the southern Gaza Strip, August 18, 2005. [Reuters]
Dramatic television footage beamed around the world showed Israeli forces for hours forcibly evacuating settlers, and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had shown courage by carrying out the pullout.

The latest evacuations brought the number of Gaza's 8,500 settlers evacuated to well over 80 percent. Hundreds of rightist pullout opponents have also been expelled or detained. The army said 160 were arrested in Kfar Darom.

Israeli opponents call the withdrawal a victory for Palestinian militants -- a view echoed by the gunmen -- as well as the betrayal of a biblical claim that could set a precedent elsewhere.

Sharon dubs the pullout "disengagement" from conflict and most Israelis back the plan. A new opinion poll for the daily Yedioth Ahronoth showed 59 percent support it, and 61 percent believed Sharon had shown good or very good leadership.

Political analysts say the pullout could also reduce foreign pressure to give up bigger settlements in the West Bank, land the Palestinians also seek.

Palestinians welcome the withdrawal of the Gaza settlers and another 500 from the West Bank, but fear Israel aims to keep most of the other communities housing 230,000 settlers forever. Some 3.8 million Palestinians live in Gaza and the West Bank.

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