Monday, August 15, 2005

Sporadic violence hits Gaza pullout

CNN - Israeli soldiers descended on Jewish settlements throughout Gaza on Monday morning, serving eviction notices to settlers who remained after a deadline for the withdrawal from the territory to begin.

Israel has committed 55,000 soldiers and 8,000 police to the effort.

Some of the settlers remaining in Gaza rioted early Monday, while remaining residents of other settlements came under fire from Palestinian militants, Israeli authorities said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from any of those incidents, which took place just hours after Israel closed the Kissufim border crossing that settlers used to enter Gaza.

Israeli troops and Palestinian police were coordinating efforts to crack down on any possible violence as Israel officially began its historic pullout from Gaza at midnight Sunday (5 p.m. ET)

Israeli troops began sealing off all 21 settlements in Gaza, barring anyone from entering, and were informing Jewish settlers that they have 48 hours to leave the Palestinian territory or be removed by force.

The settlers will receive compensation for the loss of their homes. While the amount will vary, the total aid package approved by Israeli lawmakers totals $870 million.

In a related development, the Israeli Cabinet voted 16 to 4 Monday in favor of the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements in southern Gaza. Gush Katif represents the main bloc of settlements in the territory.

Early Monday, CNN's John Vause was in the Morag settlement in southern Gaza, where several dozen people -- a combination of settlers and non-resident protesters -- blocked the path of soldiers seeking to enter. Sometimes-emotional negotiations resolved the standoff.

About 16 families remained after the deadline, according to Vause, along with what Israeli officials estimate are up to 300 infiltrators, who are illegally in Gaza to protest the pullout. Vause said infiltrators will not be granted the same 48-hour grace period extended to settlement residents and will be evicted Monday.

Israel has occupied Gaza since the end of the 1967 Mideast war. Some of the roughly 8,500 settlers in Gaza have already left, but numerous protesters have entered the territory in recent weeks to protest the withdrawal.

Brig. Gen. Guy Tzur, deputy commander of the Israel Defense Forces for Israel's southern region, estimated that 80 percent of the settlers are still in Gaza but predicted that several thousand more will be gone by Wednesday.

Even of those that stay, he said, "The majority of them won't be violent. I'm sure of it. They are responsible people and responsible settlers."