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Israel Evacuates Two Hard-Line West Bank Settlements


Israeli troops have moved in to clear out two West Bank settlements Tuesday as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial disengagement plan entered its final phase.

Sanur and Homesh contained the most hard-line opponents to the evacuation plan.

In a replay of earlier scenes in the Gaza settlement of Kfar Darom, police in shipping containers, were raised by crane to the rooftops where they began removing protesters one by one. The settlers, some wearing gas masks, threw eggs, tomatoes, cans of food and dirty liquid on the troops gathered below.

Elsewhere, homeowners barricaded their doors with furniture and in some cases even welded their metal windows shut and strung barbed wire across the entrances.

An Israeli policeman called for the crowd to clear the sidewalk to allow troops to enter the home of a settler family that had barricaded themselves inside.

Scenes of resisting settlers were repeated over and over as Israeli TV provided non-stop live coverage of the evacuation.

In the evacuations Tuesday there was far more resistance than the military had seen earlier in the Gaza Strip where some settlers left their homes quietly, at times hand in hand with police and soldiers. In Sanur and Homesh the reception for the evacuating forces was far more hostile.

"What treason!" this young mother shouted from her doorway, as her husband screamed, "You are stabbing us in the back and twisting the knife."

The worst fears of Israeli officials, that there would be armed resistance, did not materialize although Israel Radio reported the arrest of one protester for allegedly trying to stab a soldier with a knife.

Two other West Bank settlements slated for evacuation were already empty when the day began. Their residents had left voluntarily.

General Dan Halutz, the Israeli military chief, said during a visit to the Sanur that by the end of the day, the evacuation is, effectively, at an end.

Gen. Halutz singled out the many rabbis whose participation had calmed angry settlers and made the job of the soldiers and police easier.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Israeli President Moshe Katsav Tuesday and praised the disengagement. Israel Radio quoted Mr. Abbas as saying the withdrawal presented a historic chance for peace.

President Bush has called the Israeli withdrawal a courageous and painful step that could revive peace efforts.

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