LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
Israeli police and troops moved into three Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip today to evacuate the residents. Despite burning barricades, Israeli officials said they hoped to finish the evacuation of Gaza tomorrow just a week after it began. The Israeli Cabinet today formally ratified the evacuation of the last seven of the settlements, three in Gaza and four in the West Bank. Those West Bank settlements are due to be evacuated later this week. NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.
LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:
In the settlement of Otsmona(ph) in Gaza, soldiers and police began going house to house to try to convince the settlers to leave. At some of the houses they were met by angry residents, like this young girl.
Unidentified Girl: (Foreign language spoken)
GRADSTEIN: `You're evil!' she screamed at the soldiers. `How can you do this?' The soldiers, who have undergone intensive training in recent weeks, listened impassively.
At one house an old man in his 80s named Santow(ph) waited for the soldiers and police with a medal he had received from the Israeli government for his help in fighting the Nazis during World War II. He has sewn a yellow Jewish star, like those Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust, onto his shirt and says what's happening today reminds him of the Holocaust.
SANTOW: (Through Translator) It's the same thing I feel like I did in 1938 when Chamberlain said, `I made peace and just sacrificed Czechoslovakia.' Today they are sacrificing the Gaza settlements, but it won't end there. It will end in Jerusalem.
GRADSTEIN: He says he plans to return his medal to the soldiers who come to evacuate him.
In the nearby settlement of Kateef, troops arrived in the early morning today to find the gates of the settlement barred and their way blocked by bales of hay that had been set on fire. Army bulldozers pushed through the barricades, and soldiers began going house to house talking to the settlers and trying to convince them to leave. Military officials say that by the end of the day 20 of the 21 settlements in Gaza will be empty. Settlers will remain in only the isolated enclave of Nisanit, which is due to be evacuated tomorrow. Later this week the army will turn its attention to four settlements in the northern West Bank.
Also today, Israel began demolishing the homes in two of the Gaza settlements that were emptied last week. Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas this weekend issued a decree that the Palestinian Authority will take over the settlements after Israeli troops leave. He said Palestinians who can show land ownership deeds of the area will get their land back.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli Cabinet today formally ratified the evacuation of the last seven settlements. At the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sharply lashed out at protesters in the settlement of Kfar Darom who had attacked Israeli troops with paint thinner and oil on Thursday. The Israeli government has said that most of these protesters do not live in Gaza but are teen-agers who infiltrated into Gaza in the past few weeks to oppose the withdrawal.
Prime Minister ARIEL SHARON (Israel): (Through Translator) It is hooliganism that borders on crime. It says something not only about them but about those who sent them and incited them.
GRADSTEIN: Israel's attorney general said that 250 protesters remain in jail Sunday, and most of them will be prosecuted. Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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