First families from Sa-Nur bused out of West Bank

The first families began leaving Sa-Nur on Tuesday morning as thousands of security forces broke down the gates and poured into the northern West Bank settlement and its neighboring enclave of Homesh. About 2,000 extremists with an arsenal of weapons are thought to be in the two settlements, determined to foil the last stage of Israel’s historic disengagement. Troops in Sa-Nur began negotiations with the settlers, in a bid to complete the evacuation without confrontation. Lines of police and soldiers, some in anti-riot gear, advanced through Sa-Nur, now home to a few remaining settlers along with a crowd of „reinforcements,” many of them West Bank youths known for extremism and rejection of the government’s authority. Teenagers armed with iron rods and shields barricaded themselves in the stone citadel and a nearby synagogue. The military had already decided that if protesters moved into the fortress, the police’s special missions unit would be charged with overcoming and evacuating those barricaded inside. More than 15,000 soldiers and police officers are participating in the operation to clear the last two occupied settlements to be evacuated under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan. The residents of Ganim and Kadim, the two other settlements in the northern West Bank to be evacuated, have already left voluntarily. Approaching troops were greeted by young women and girls wearing orange or yellow stars, invoking the treatement of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, praying in the streets of the settlement. Sa-Nur was expected to be the main focus of anti-disengagement resistance. Many activists from the extreme-right Kach movement and members of the hilltop youth are believed to have set up camp in the settlement. The security forces are acting on the assumption that some of these pullout opponents are carrying firearms, but say there is only a slight chance that any shots will be fired. But MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), speaking to Channel 10 television from a barricaded roof at the heart of the settlement, said Tuesday morning that, to the best of his knowledge, there were no weapons left in Sa-Nur. „We don’t want to give police and army troops any excuses to use violence,” he said. Security forces may make use of mounted police and water cannons to counter the resistance. The head of the police division that includes the two settlements, Superintendent Yisrael Yitzhak, said police had internalized the lessons of the battle with pullout foes on the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue. Before dawn Tuesday, security forces arrested Rabbi Shlomo Eliyahu of Safed and one of his students, who intended to enter Sa-Nur, Israel Radio reported. The two claimed to have permits to enter the settlement, but the troops refused to let them through. Rabbi Eliyahu has made several extreme comments in the past, including calling on soldiers and police to refuse orders under the disengagement plan. „Our problem is with these ‘reinforcements,’ two or three of whom arrived Monday night, who will not listen to the rabbis’ instructions,” GOC Central Command Major General Yair Naveh said Tuesday. „It may well be that here we will find our next ‘lone terrorist.’ This is what is worrying us, and, unfortunately, it is out of our control. We are dealing with youths who, as they see it, just want to protect the Holy Land. Sometimes, they cross the lines of what is legitimate.” Senior officers believe that opposition will be much fiercer than the scenes at Kfar Darom last week. Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi said Monday evening police were prepared for any possible scenario during the evacuation of the two settlements. Sa-Nur secretary Yossi Dagan said reports about the protesters’ plans to use violence could be chalked up to attempts by security forces to manipulate the public, and said the right-wing activists would resist the evacuation in a reasonable manner. Five youths, as well as a couple and their ten children, left Sa-Nur voluntarily Monday. They asked to leave the settlement before the outbreak of possible violent resistance during the evacuation of the settlement, and police escorted them to a bus that transported them out. BPI-info