The main gate of N'vei Dekalim, the largest town in Gush Katif, has been the site of much action since 7:00 this morning. At present, though hundreds of people are crowded around the area, and though they succeeded in preventing the army and police from entering to distribute the expulsion notices, the army is now bringing in very large containers into which to pack the residents' belongings.
The above scenario is creating conflict among the protestors. The leadership of the town wants to allow the containers in, in order to allow some residents to have their belongings packed up. Others say, however, that a golden opportunity to block the expulsion is being wasted, and that the containers should not be allowed in.
Earlier today, an agreement was reached between the police/army and residents, according to which the residents would open the road, but the police would not distribute the expulsion notices.
While many of the town's residents were concentrated at the main gate of N'vei Dekalim, blocking off the army and police from entering, another large army force tried to enter through a back way. At approximately 11 AM (4 AM EST), some 20 small tanks, several hundred soldiers, and a fire truck arrived at the industrial zone entrance to the city. In addition, close to 15 buses accompanied the forces.
Some of the force made it through, but most did not.
Many of the soldiers who were in the force attempting to enter N'vei Dekalim were told by one of their commanders, "Whoever can't do it should move aside" - and many did.
Eyewitnesses said that residents did not stop talking with soldiers, trying to persuade them to refuse the orders. They talked of the undemocratic way in which the decision was made, the injustice of the expulsion, and other points. "It's hard to say what effect they had," reported Arutz-7's Ariel Kahane, "but there were certainly female soldiers who were crying, as well as soldiers who said, 'Understand me, I can't refuse orders.' The soldiers have been instructed not to talk with the residents, but one of them said, 'What do you want from me? Even Netanyahu was in favor.'" [Netanyahu does not favor the disengagement, but his membership in the Cabinet and refusal to resign until last week left the impression that he did not strongly oppose it. - ed.]
At one point, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz arrived at the town's main gate for a short while. Halutz heard a short briefing from the commander on the scene, and said only that the one thing he will not tolerate is a provocation in which soldiers face violence. He then quickly made his departure.
Several families left N'vei Dekalim today. One mother said she did not want to subject her children to the sights of soldiers knocking on their doors and forcing them out of their home.
The army's goal in entering the town is to distribute eviction notices to the residents, giving them until Tuesday night to leave their homes voluntarily. The army is not using great force to get in, but has threatened to do so in the future.
-The following report was filed earlier: --
Thousands of soldiers are spread throughout Jewish Gaza this morning, trying to distribute expulsion orders to the several thousand residents who are to be expelled. The name of the mission: "Brotherly Hand."
In several places, most notably N'vei Dekalim, the "capital" of Gush Katif, the residents set up a blockade and are refusing entry to the soldiers. The locals held a prayer service at the gate this morning.
A large sign - black letters on an orange background - was placed on the entrance booth at N'vei Dekalim, reading, "Closed Civilian Zone." This is a play on the term "Closed Military Zone" that the army has declared on all of Gush Katif.
Soldiers are also trying to enter N'vei Dekalim from other areas, most notably the industrial zone. There is no gate there, and soldiers and residents are talking. The situation is peaceful and calm, in a departure from similar situations elsewhere in Gush Katif.
Students of the Torat HaChaim Yeshiva in N'vei Dekalim are continuing to study. "The study hall is emptier than usual," one student said, "because the married students [who live in other communities] have not arrived, and many of the guests who have been here of late are probably outside at the town gates. But [yeshiva head] Rabbi Tal told us that our main job now is prayer and study, so that's what we're trying to do."
As hundreds of residents and visiting youths danced and sang in a large circle at the main entrance to N'vei Dekalim, a long and frightening line of hundreds of policemen, headed by two horses, could be seen marching towards the gate. At present, they have not begun to forcibly enter.
Rabbi Shimon Cohen of N'vei Dekalim spoke with the local police commander across the locked gate, with the "participation" of an Israeli television reporter. Rabbi Cohen said to the officer, "We have 48 hours more - so let us be. Why can't you just give us this time?" The officer said, "Certainly; even if you let us in now - it's your choice to lock these gates - we will be very calm and talk with you. On Wednesday as well [when the forced eviction begins], we will also be calm."
Asked how he plans to behave when the soldiers enter his home to remove him and his family on Wednesday, Rabbi Cohen said, "I will explain to them that what they are doing is a horrific crime, and I will photograph them and pass the pictures on to my children and grandchildren, and tell them that by saying that they are fulfilling the law, this will not make up for their crime."
Residents of others communities, such as Ganei Tal, Morag and Netzarim, are also preventing the soldiers from entering, or plan to do so. In Kfar Darom, Palestinian terrorist shooting can be heard in the background - interspersed with announcements of today's day camp schedule...
The army has announced that in some communities, such as Netzarim, the soldiers will not even attempt to go from door to door, but will rather distribute the notices all at once to the town's general office.
The order to be distributed to the residents states that the residents are asked to leave their homes by midnight on Tuesday, and that if not, their forced eviction and expulsion will begin at that hour. The letter notes the positive relationship that has existed over the past years between the army and the residents.
Two police officers and two IDF Captains are scheduled to arrive at each house, and explain to them why they should leave their home. If the team is not permitted to enter the house, the notice will be posted on the door.
In Nisanit and Elei Sinai, for instance, two communities in northern Gaza, this process has already begun. IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Miri Regev said that the pictures emanating from Gush Katif are heart-breaking. "One would have to have a heart of stone to volunteer for this mission," she said, "but in the end, the IDF does not choose its missions - it is assigned them."