Evictions Begin Amid Protests, Arrests in Gaza
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
SUSAN STAMBERG, host:
Renee Montagne is away. I'm Susan Stamberg.
Israeli security forces today entered Jewish settlements on the Gaza Strip and began to forcibly remove protesters who refused to leave by the midnight deadline. More than 200 protestors were arrested, some barricaded themselves inside Gaza's largest synagogue. Israeli troops are now entering that synagogue to remove hundreds of worshippers who had formed a human chain as they swayed in prayer. And over at the West bank, an Israeli man opened fire on Palestinians, killing four, injuring two. NPR's Mike Shuster is in Neve Dekalim; that's the largest of the settlements. Some 2,000 protesters there have barricaded themselves inside the main synagogue.
Hi, Mike. It's late afternoon there. Where do things stand?
MIKE SHUSTER reporting:
Well, things are much calmer, Susan, than they were this morning when they got started. The police have been through this settlement now all day long, and they're very carefully and routinely now entering homes where settlers have refused to leave, and they're, in effect, removing settlers from their homes and beginning to pack up their household goods and putting them in container trucks. There are containers now all over this settlement. And the police say that of more than 400 residences in the Neve Dekalim, 160 have now--or more than 160 have been vacated. So they're moving ahead.
STAMBERG: Yeah. Earlier in the day you told us that it was sort of like a floating riot there. So take us through the day. How did things unfold?
SHUSTER: It was. It got started in a pretty nasty fashion. The first squadrons of police came in and they were immediately set upon by these young protesters, many of them from outside the settlement who have come to try to stop this withdrawal from the Jewish settlements in Gaza. And there was just so much screaming and bile and anger. These are mostly teen-agers and even younger. Some kids just screaming at the soldiers, and the soldiers wouldn't take the bait, didn't engage them. This went on for a couple of hours. But as the outdoors heated up--It's very hot here--and as the rhetoric heated up, fistfights broke out, police started chasing some of these kids, arrests were made through the day. Probably more than 200 protesters have been detained, put on buses and taken to jail. Now there are small groups of protesters around, they're following the police from house to house.
STAMBERG: Are security forces saying anything about how long they think it's going to take to remove all the resistors?
SHUSTER: Now they're hoping that they might actually finish Neve Dekalim by the end of week. They're not promising that. They're hoping that, and they believe that once they remove all the settlers and the resisters from Neve Dekalim, because it's the largest settlement, that it'll essentially break back of the settler resistance here. But they're not guaranteeing. They're going to continue it till late today. I don't think they're going to be doing it in the nighttime. They'll pick it up again on Thursday. They probably won't work on Friday and Saturday, the Jewish weekend, in effect.
SHUSTER: So it could carry over into next week.
STAMBERG: And, Mike, what will happen to the houses and the belongings of those settlers who have refused to leave by the deadline?
SHUSTER: The belongings will get packed up. Some of the settlers as they're being removed have agreed to pack up their belongings and put them in these containers. If they're simply taken away bodily, the army has said that it will try to put as much stuff in the houses in these containers and ship it back to Israel so that the owners can eventually reclaim it. The houses will eventually be bulldozed but not until the settlement is completely removed of people. It'll be torn down methodically, and then the Palestinians will take it over.
STAMBERG: Now where you are, Mike, has the electricity been cut? It was indicated that would happen once the deadline passed.
SHUSTER: No, the electricity wasn't cut, and authorities here said that that was not going to be the case. Electricity is cut to the houses that have been vacated but not to the the ones where people are still living.
STAMBERG: Thank you very much. NPR's Mike Shuster, in Neve Dekalim settlement in Gaza.