Though a major battle was expected inside the synagogue, the rabbis - among them Rabbis Zalman Melamed and Elyakim Levanon - counseled a peaceful evacuation, sayiand the students left without a struggle. A group of approximately 40 women, some of them holding little children, also faced a stand-off with riot-gear clad policemen, but the near-clash ended peacefully by and large. One of the youths on the roof said, "We are fighting a fight of the spirit."
Several dozen youths remain on the roof of the synagogue. Security forces are preparing to raise large containers onto the roof. Policemen are in the containers, planning to push the youths into the containers and lower them to the ground.
Late morning report:
The evacuation and destruction of Kfar Darom is expected to be even more violent than that of most of N'vei Dekalim yesterday. Hundreds of youths are gathered atop and inside the synagogue, while the 85 families are not planning to leave their homes without resistance.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz arrived in Kfar Darom shortly before noon.
The Medrashah building, which was filled with people resisting the expulsion, was forcibly evacuated in the late morning hours.
The police and army forces have begun to evacuate the families, with each house a military and emotionally charged operation in and of itself. In one case, a force of some 15 soldiers arrived, and the commander demanded to be let in so that he could remove the inhabitants. The young father refused, and finally the soldiers forced the door open. They did not enter, but continued talking to the father. He said, "If you wish to come in just to talk, then of course we'll let you in; we always welcome guests. But if you wish to throw us out, why should we let you in? What did we do bad? We live here!"
The soldiers went in anyway, and the family greeted them with a surprise: A birthday party for their daughter Emunah. They began singing, "Happy birthday to Emunah," leaving the soldiers in one of the few situations for which, most likely, they were not prepared.
At that tense and dramatic point, the photographers were asked to leave the home.
Nogah Cohen, three of whose children lost their legs or feet in a terrorist attack almost five years ago, said with unconcealed emotion, "I tried to begin packing, but I was simply unable to do so. It's just hard to believe that after years of struggle, we might not be here tonight..."
Asked if she would have to be dragged out of her home, she said, "Fighting the IDF is not our way."
As she was talking to a television reporter, her neighbor Tali Sudry passed by and, in an upheaval of emotion, interrupted, "The IDF is not as innocent as you think. Just now, soldiers came to my home and smashed a glass window, showering glass all over my one-and-a-half year old son. I had told them to come around to the main door, but there was no talking to them. They just punched through the window. They say that we're violent - the army is the one that is violent!"
Nearby, a military policeman went up to his commander and said, "I cannot fulfill this mission," and returned his weapon. Yassam policemen immediately and violently arrested him, while dozens of residents cheered him on, calling out, "He is a hero!"
It was unclear why the arrest was carried out violently.
Jews originally bought land in what is now the area of Kfar Darom 100 years ago, but the small Jewish presence there was destroyed during the Arab riots of 1936-39. Several years later, Kibbutz Kfar Darom was established by none other than David Ben-Gurion, who set up eleven communities for the purpose of populating the Negev. The Egyptians attacked it mercilessly during the War of Independence in 1948, and though it staved off several attacks, Kfar Darom was finally abandoned in July 1949.
Eighteen years later, Gaza was liberated by Israel in the Six Day War, and in 1970, Golda Meir established an army camp and built educational institutions on the lands of Kfar Darom. Today’s community of Kfar Darom was established in 1990 following a decision by the joint Shamir-Peres Likud-Labor unity government.
Among the Kfar Darom families that the army wishes to forcibly remove today is that of Chana Bart. Chana is a young mother - her youngest is a year old - who was paralyzed from the waist down in a terror attack four years ago.
Protestors atop the synagogue call out intermittently, "Who will be the soldier who goes into the home of Chana Bart and takes her out?! Who will dare go into the Cohen home and force out the children with no legs?!"