Security forces take Kfar Darom synagogue rooftop
IDF's Gaza commander: What we saw here crossed all boundaries; 225 protesters arrested.
Israeli security forces seized control of the roof of Kfar Darom's synagogue Thursday evening, as they moved to oust die-hard protesters, hours after troops stormed the inside of the building to remove illegal infiltrators.
Some 58 people were injured in the operation - among them at least 27 police officers, 14 protesters and 3 soldiers. The police officers were taken for tests at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, after acid was thrown at then during the evacuation.
One of the policemen sustained moderate to serious injuries when he slipped on oil thrown by protesters to deter security forces, and fell from the second story of the synagogue.
Major General Dan Harel said several troops were wounded by acid and were sent to hospital. "What we saw here crossed all boundaries," he said. "Everybody who was now on the roof will be arrested and put in prison."
Some 225 of the protesters were arrested. Eighty-five of them have been detained at a Be'er Sheva jail. The detainees will be questioned during the night, on suspicions of barricading themselves and participating in the violent clashes with police.
Police Chief Moshe Karadi said the security forces' patience had worn thin after the display of violence at Kfar Darom. After two days of gentle persuasion, "from the moment when the dialogue ended, restraint also ended."
Troops placed ladders against the walls of the synagogue to reach the demonstrators, who poured oil, paint and sand onto the climbing forces and used sticks in an attempt to push the ladders away from the walls.
A riot-control vehicle below sprayed coloured dye on the protestors in a possible effort to mark them for future prosecution.
On the roof, police and soldiers grappled with protesters, who continued to hurl paint at troops. One young demonstrator clung to the arm of a soldier and wept.
Border Policemen had briefly hovered at roof level in special cages hoisted by cranes, but the IDF decided against landing the containers on the barbed wire adorned roof, for fear it would collapse.
According to the army, the roof is designed to hold only up to 120 people. Some troops later landed on the roof via the container and bundled protesters inside for removal.
Troops in riot gear entered the synagogue early Thursday evening, after the houses in the hardline settlement had all been evacuated.
Hundreds of settlers and their supporters sat underneath tables and linked arms in a bid to stop forces from prying them apart and evacuating them.
As in other Gaza settlements, hundreds of unarmed security forces had marched into the settlement at daybreak Thursday, the second day of forcible evacuation.
Soldiers turned a water cannon on rooftop protesters, after they were pelted from above with milk, eggs, paint and even watermelons.
Television images showed forces carrying out prayer shawl-draped protesters from the synagogue, where illegal infiltrators have been barricaded since the early morning. Some protesters, however, were seen walking out of the synagogue and calling to those outside as they left.
Police and Israel Defense Forces succeeded Thursday afternoon in seizing control of the settlement's secretariat, where pullout opponents tossed paint at soldiers.
Earlier, 100 illegal infiltrators were removed from a Torah study hall and 72 were evacuated from a factory in the settlement. They were taken away from Kfar Darom on buses.
By mid-morning, Kfar Darom residents had acceded to requests by the IDF and settler leaders to leave the synagogue and return to their homes, police said - leaving only the infiltrators inside.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz visited the settlement under heavy security to oversee its evacuation. Residents booed him as he was briefed by commanders at the site.
Residents threw eggs at security forces as they approached homes set for evacuation.
Earlier in the day, troops forcibly evacuated about 100 pullout opponents from a religious school for girls at Kfar Darom. The protesters passively resisted evacuation. Security forces also evacuated protesters holed up in a nursery school, where one protester threatened soldiers with a syringe she claimed to be infected with the AIDS virus. Special forces were called in to remove her.
An additional 72 right-wing activists were evacuated from the Alei Katif factory in Kfar Darom, which produces insect-free lettuce and other vegetables for Orthodox Jews. One of the activists was arrested after breaking a windowpane.
An IDF reservist soldier assigned to remove protesters from the Kfar Darom synagogue refused evacuation orders and was taken away from the scene by fellow troops.
The soldier halted near the synagogue, put on phylacteries, and - in front of television cameras - refused to follow military orders. The IDF said he will face disciplinary action. Crowds of settlers cheered the soldier, and he was praised on the settlement's public announcement system.
GOC Southern Command Major General Dan Harel, who visited Kfar Darom on Thursday morning, said he hoped the settlement would be evacuated by the evening.
"Slowly, carefully, we wil remove all the people from here," he told Israel Radio. "I hope that by evening we will complete this test."
Aharon Franco, a police commander leading a disengagement force, said he expected Kfar Darom to be difficult to evacuate, because of the "more hard-core group" in the settlement.
The water supply to Kfar Darom was cut off in what police said was an accident. Police officers distributed water bottles to the residents while the supply was being restored.
The settlers had blocked the main entrance to Kfar Darom early Thursday morning, leaving thousands of troops to enter on foot from a side gate at the south side of the settlement.
Also Thursday, security officers were planning to complete the evacuation of Neveh Dekalim and evacuate the Gaza settlements of Shirat Hayam, Netzer Hazani, Gan Or and Kfar Yam.