Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Chief of Staff, Halutz: Evacuation nearly complete

From Jerusalem Post Aug. 23, 2005 19:02 Updated Aug. 24, 2005 2:29 By MATTHEW GUTMAN AND YAAKOV KATZ ...

Security forces on Tuesday evacuated the last residents and activists from the northern Samaria settlements of Homesh and Sa-Nur, completing the most harrowing stage of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan under which 25 settlements have been evacuated in barely a week.

While the "evacuation is over it is not yet complete," Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Tuesday night. Israel must still raze the settlements before it cedes them to Palestinian control in October and re-house the 9500 residents evicted from their homes.

The largest Israeli military and police operation in a generation was concluded without a shot fired or a single serious injury. In total, over 15,000 Jews were evacuated from the settlements, Halutz said at a press conference in the northern West Bank Tuesday evening.

Halutz told reporters it would take another 10 days to remove belongings still in the homes and transfer them elsewhere. Another 10-day period would be required after that to allow for the demolishing of homes; many public buildings are to be left intact and handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

On Monday night OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh said that the area where the four evacuated West Bank settlements are located will remain under Israeli security control (Area C), unlike Gaza.

....While Israel's political echelon remained silent on the success of the controversial plan, Benzi Lieberman, Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, said the pullout would only strengthen West Bank settlement. "When a crisis hits, people respond and this expulsion has raised people's consciousness about the necessity to settle Judea and Samaria," he said in a telephone interview.

Over the past week Lieberman shuttled back and forth among groups of more extreme activists, urging them to toe the settlement leadership's line of non-violent struggle. "Any violence could have crushed us [the settlement endeavor] irrevocably," he said.

...The secret to the security force's success in evacuating the settlements with no casualties, ...was the continuous dialogue the IDF and police officers kept up with settler leaders throughout the week.

Margot Dudkevitch contributed to this report.

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