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Remaining Settlers Leave Gaza; Israel Turns to West Bank

BY Admin  August 22, 2005 at 1:05 PM EST

The settlers of Netzarim did not violently resist the pullout. Instead, they embraced Israeli soldiers and joined together for two hours of tearful prayers before beginning their somber departure.

“We are leaving against our will, but we are not going with our heads bowed,” Rabbi Tzion Tzion-Tawil told Reuters. “The saplings which are being uprooted here, we will replant throughout the country until we make our return to Netzarim.”

Settlers also removed a large candelabra, or menorah, from the synagogue and carried it on their shoulders as they left what had been one of the first enclaves established in Gaza after the 1967 war during which Israel captured the territory from Egypt.

With the evacuation of Netzarim, Israel successfully finished its withdrawal from all 21 settlements in Gaza. Though some radicals at other settlements forcibly opposed the pullout — throwing eggs and burning barricades — the Army managed to evacuate all 8,500 residents two weeks ahead of schedule.

However, Israeli officials expect clashes at the West Bank settlements of Sanur and Homesh, where about 2,000 ultranationalist youths are already encamped in anticipation of Tuesday’s evacuation. Army officers said they expect the youths, who are residents of the most radical West Bank settlements, to throw burning tires onto pools of cooking oil and to detonate their horde of stun grenades and tear gas canisters.

Resisting settlers and radicals have said they want to make the West Bank withdrawals as traumatic as possible to discourage any further concessions to the Palestinians.

Atop a stone citadel in Sanur the radicals piled supplies and fashioned metal rods into rudimentary weapons. They also hung a banner that read, “Damned is the one who expels his brother from his home.”