Israeli settlers and soldiers have clashed in the Gaza Strip, as the government steps up plans to withdraw from the area this summer.
Trouble began in Gaza when Israeli army bulldozers moved in to demolish abandoned buildings on the beachfront. The soldiers were confronted by angry settlers who blocked the bulldozers with their bodies and climbed on top of them. They shouted, "Jews do not expel Jews!" The protesters were dragged away kicking and screaming.
Then, one of the soldiers, a West Bank settler, refused to obey orders to evacuate the demonstrators.
"This is not right!" the soldier said. "This is not justice." The soldier was arrested.
The clash could be a preview of what is to come in less than two months, when the government is due to implement its so-called "disengagement" plan. And then the army will not be dismantling abandoned buildings, but rather the homes of more than eight-thousand settlers who will be evacuated. Aliza Herbst is a spokeswoman for the settlers.
"We need to stop and think again that we are headed for disaster, the state of Israel's headed for disaster, security wise, socially, that we need to stop and think again about the disengagement," he said.
The clash came as Israel's Cabinet approved a controversial plan allowing the evacuated Gaza settlers to move together as a group to the nearby coastal area of Nitzanim. The aim is to dampen resistance by offering the settlers some prime beach real estate. But Gaza settler Rachel Sapperstein told VOA that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can keep his beachfront property.
"We do not even want the land that he is offering us, we want to stay home, in our houses," said Ms. Sapperstein.
Mr. Sharon's plan to move the settlers to Nitzanim is also facing opposition from environmentalists. They say the government is ruining the last unspoiled beach property in Israel.