Shirat Hayam Braces for 'Attack,' Collects Intelligence on IDF

Settlement commands Gush Katif's only alternative longitudinal route.

Shirat Hayam residents are collecting intelligence on army movements, expecting the army to "attack" the Gaza settlement early Wednesday.

Residents recognize the importance of the tiny settlement to the evacuation plan - it commands Gush Katif's only alternative longitudinal route, along the shore, blocked in recent days by trenches and tire-puncturing objects.

Residents know that Shirat Hayam could become a tactical trap like at Kfar Maimon, where fences surrounding the moshav helped police enclose the protesters. They began removing their fences Tuesday. This will facilitate fleeing toward Muasi, which borders Shirat Hayam from the east, creating an operational nightmare for IDF troops who would have to simultaneously "hunt" the residents in Palestinian fields while protecting them.

Another potential worry for the army is frenzied residents trying to run into the sea.

Resistance will probably be concentrated in the southern part of the settlement, where Ira Yitzhaky and Nadia Matar live, and in the teenage encampment at the northern end.

On Tuesday morning, when most families in Kfar Yam and Shirat Hayam were still in bed, or at synagogue, or in the kitchen eating breakfast, hysterical shouts came from a megaphone. Nadia Matar, the "vengeful goddess" of Kiryat Arba who moved to a trailer on the beach at Kfar Yam, began screaming, "APCs, IDF APCs advancing on us. Get to the gates."

Matar was standing atop a high sand dune at the southern end of Kfar Yam. After a brief recess, when the armored personnel carriers failed to appear and people returned to their now-scorched omelettes, Matar resumed yelling, "Quad bikes, IDF quad bikes. Surround them and take the air out of their tires. Everybody up."

This time a few quad bikes belonging to an elite unit really did appear on the beach, driving at high speed, but since few believed the megaphone shouts, the soldiers were able to traverse the entire tent encampment of Shirat Hayam unharmed.

Kfar Yam residents spent Tuesday looking eastward toward the smoke billowing from Neveh Dekalim and Bedolah. Teenage boys ambushed army vehicles as they traveled along the Muasi route beyond the settlement's fence and attacked their tires, but the adults withdrew into themselves in tense anticipation.

Settlement leaders were unconcerned with tactical problems Tuesday, at least outwardly. Loudspeakers called residents to a briefing near the synagogue Tuesday evening. The tension was perceptible from the grave faces of the men, women and children listening to their leaders. The gathering was devoted to boosting morale ahead of the military evacuation. Residents were told to abandon hard-to-defend tents and shacks and join families in houses, according to prepared lists.

Afterward, residents held an emotional prayer service, ending with a shofar blowing accompanied by children on darbuka drums. The evening ended with a party at the tent encampment that conveyed millennial tidings - long-resident journalists were officially invited.