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Israel Begins Evacuation of Two Hard-line West Bank Settlements

  • Larry James

Shortly after dawn Tuesday, troops moved into two West Bank settlements in the final phase of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

Heavy bulldozers ripped through the gates to Sanur and Homesh Tuesday, followed by thousands of Israeli soldiers and police.

The troops soon came face to face with outraged and heartbroken settlers, some of whom choked back tears as they were ordered to leave their homes.

"What treason!" this young mother shouts from her doorway, as her husband screams, "You are stabbing us in the back and twisting the knife." A police officer then puts his arm on the man's shoulder, and the two turn to walk inside the house.

It is believed that the most hard-line opponents to the evacuation plan are holed up in the two settlements located in the biblical heartland of what Israel calls Northern Samaria.

Teenagers with iron rods and shields have barricaded themselves in several stone buildings and a synagogue. As many as 2,000 hardliners are believed to have gathered in Sanur and Homesh.

Officials say dealing with resistance in these settlements will be more complicated than the relatively easy evacuations of 21 settlements in Gaza, which was competed Monday.

Two other West Bank settlements slated for evacuation are already empty after their residents left voluntarily.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Sharon on Monday to express his hope that the Gaza pullout would open a new phase in relations. Israel's Haaretz newspaper says the two leaders have agreed to meet soon. Their last meeting was on June 21, when they worked on an agreement to coordinate the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

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

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