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Israeli Settlement Evacuation Begins Amid Protests

Israeli troops have begun fanning out into the Jewish settlements of the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank to hand out eviction notices giving settlers 48 hours to leave voluntarily or face forced evacuation under the government's controversial disengagement plan.

That was the sound, Monday, at the largest Gaza settlement Neve Dekalim - an Israeli soldier calmly informing settlers that the teams distributing evacuation notices were coming in whether they liked it or not.

While he addressed the large crowd that had gathered at the front entrance to the settlement, hundreds of Israeli troops and police entered through the back way, without incident - a potential confrontation avoided. Once inside, however, they encountered other angry residents determined to resist.

Elsewhere in Gaza and in four settlements in the northern West Bank, teams of Israeli soldiers and police began handing out the official eviction notices. In some instances, security forces were met with pleas not to carry out their order like this man who wept as the drama began to unfold in the northern Gaza settlement of Elai Sinai.

"We have Jews trying to kill Jewish communities," said one settler. "This is no disengagement. This is a community destruction plan. This is no such thing as disengagement. The only disengagement this is is a disengagement from sanity, from survival and the future of the Jewish people."

Jewish settlers try to prevent Israeli troops from entering the Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim, in the Gush Katif bloc of settlements to deliver eviction notes to residents Monday Aug. 15, 2005 Authorities expect about half of the estimated 8,500 settlers in Gaza will leave voluntarily. But others, along with thousands of outside supporters who have managed to infiltrate into the settlements, are determined to resist.

The regional Israeli commander directly responsible for the operation, General Dan Harel, said the operation is going to plan, despite some delays.

General Harel says the troops have come today to talk and not to confront anyone, but acknowledge that there has been resistance from some young people in several places. He says, if that continues, troops would go in and remove these young protesters and then continue on talking to the settler families.