Daily Israel Report

Difficult Scenes in Gush Katif

No fewer than 20 people were hurt yesterday in what some see as the first step of the implementation of the Gush Katif withdrawal/expulsion. "What will be during the real thing?" many are asking.
First Publish: 6/27/2005, 8:39 AM / Last Update: 6/27/2005, 11:20 AM

Shortly after noon, army forces swooped down on an area adjacent to the beachfront Shirat HaYam community in Gush Katif, and began bulldozing a line of 11 abandoned structures. The army later confirmed that it had "security assessments and information indicating the intent of extremists to use the structures... to construct an outpost prior to the disengagement. According to IDF assessments, the construction of this outpost could have led to possible confrontations."

The confrontations were not avoided, however. In addition to the injuries, several people were arrested, including one soldier who vocally refused to take part in the demolition. His father later explained, "This was not an ideological refusal, but rather he saw soldiers hitting civilians and he simply said, 'I cannot take part in this, I don't want to be here.'"

"The view northward from Shirat HaYam was heart-wrenching," wrote Haggai Huberman, who was there, in the HaTzofeh newspaper today. "The line of brown houses, old vacation houses for Egyptian army officers before the Six Day War, one after the other became piles of ruins. The army bulldozer bit into them mercilessly. It wasn't hard; these houses had long ago begun to crumble... One bang by the bulldozer in the corner of each building, and a pile of broken stones was left behind."

Just to the south, similar structures have been refurbished by volunteers over the past several weeks, and four families - including that of Noam Livnat, the Education Minister's brother - now live there.

Many local Gush Katif youths streamed to the site as soon as they heard of the impending destruction. Police and army forces attempted unsuccessfully to prevent their arrival, closing off the road southward from the Maoz HaYam Hotel. The youths, however, severely hampered the bulldozers' work, but did not stop it. "At one point," Huberman wrote, "a large group of youths managed to lie down in front of one of the bulldozers, and when it stopped, others climbed atop it... Youths behind it, in front of it and on top of it. After a few minutes, the police and soldiers started evacuating, using great force. They climbed on the bulldozer and started dragging the youths down with force, with an exchange of punches, pushes and curses... The youths were crying out, 'Refuse orders! This is not your job! You are soldiers, you should be protecting us, not evacuating us!' The force used by the soldiers was so great, and sometimes so brutal and unreasonable, that some of the youths were hurt and required medical care. One youth suffered a strong blow to his shoulder, several of them fainted, and stretchers gradually began to arrive on the scene, evacuating them for medical treatment."

The army, police, anti-expulsion camp and of course the media are engaged in reviewing the day's events and attempting to draw the appropriate conclusions for the future. An Army Radio commentator said that the army did not score a public relations success yesterday, implying that the violence and soldier's refusal will encourage further opposition to the plan.

A resident of Shirat HaYam told Arutz-7 that the army showed that it could quickly and effectively carry out its demolition mission, and that "this is not encouraging for our efforts."

After the soldiers left, several Jewish residents camped out in another abandoned structure across the road from the destruction. In Gush Etzion, as well, in solidarity with the residents in Gush Katif, several people took over an abandoned structure and said they would not leave.

At one point during yesterday's confrontation, four soldiers stormed towards one youth on the bulldozer, dragged him away, held him by his limbs, ran towards a jeep and threw him in. The jeep then took off in a mad dash towards an unknown location. Somewhere else on the scene, a female officer started pounding on the head of one of the youths, while he responded in kind. He, too, was arrested. The bulldozer, protected by two lines of police and soldiers, finally left the scene.

Witnessing the row of ruins and what went into creating them, Huberman concluded, "all those present - citizens, soldier, police and reporters - could not help but be party to the same similar thought: If this if what happens during an attempt to destroy abandoned, uninhabited buildings, with no advance warning to the residents, what will happen when the army tries to erase dozens of populated homes in the communities, when everyone is prepared in advance?"