Israeli troops have begun to forcibly remove Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. This is the most crucial phase of an operation aimed at evacuating some 8,500 settlers from Gaza and a small sliver of the northern West Bank.

The midnight deadline came and went and still thousands of defiant Jewish settlers refused to leave their homes. Thousands of soldiers began to move in.

In Neve Dekalim - a settler, his young daughter held aloft in his outstretched arms, ran from soldier to soldier asking if they were going to evict her.

Despite such appeals, soldiers began carrying settlers out of their homes.

The authorities issued an appeal Wednesday morning for settlers to act responsibly and obey the evacuation orders.

Earlier, Brigadier General Eival Giladi, who is charge of the evacuation process, told journalists the evacuation will go ahead. "This is the decision that has been taken and it is going to be implemented on time," he said.

Officials say they expect it to take several weeks before the evacuation is complete but add they are in no hurry and insist it will be carried out.