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Israeli Army Holds Final Drill on Gaza Pullout


The Israeli army has held a final drill in preparation for the upcoming pullout from the Gaza Strip. But in an attempt to prevent violence, some settlers are handing in their weapons.

Thousands of Israeli soldiers rehearsed a scenario that is set to begin next week, removing settlers from the 21 Jewish communities in Gaza.

Soldiers posing as settlers climbed onto rooftops and barricaded themselves inside a synagogue, shouting slogans and throwing stones. Troops scaled the building on ladders. The protesters were loaded into a container which was evacuated by a crane.

In another scenario, mock Palestinian mortar fire fell on the area, sending soldiers running for cover. Then, soldiers posing as Palestinian gunmen infiltrated the settlement and took several hostages, prompting commandos to rush to the scene.

With fears of violence looming, the army and settlers are taking steps to prevent bloodshed. Residents of two of the four West Bank settlements slated for evacuation are handing in their guns, following the lead of several Jewish communities in Gaza.

"People don't want violence," said settlement activist Eve Harrow. "The fact that the army has been put in this terrible situation that instead of protecting Jews they have to go and pull Jews out of their homes is the fault of the prime minister, and everybody on all sides deeply resents it. But nobody wants violence and nobody's going to hurt any soldiers."

At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest site, thousands of opponents of the withdrawal held a prayer vigil.

With the pullout appearing inevitable, participants prayed for divine intervention to stop it.