44 Hurt, 150 Held in Kfar Darom Synagogue Clashes

Yuval Azoulay
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Yuval Azoulay

More than 150 people were arrested, and 44 people, including policemen, Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and anti-disengagement activists, were injured in violent clashes during the forcible evacuation of Kfar Darom's synagogue yesterday.

Several policemen required hospitalization after protesters threw acid at them. One, with moderate to serious injuries, was taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.

Settlers and disengagement opponents barricaded themselves in the synagogue early yesterday morning when large military and police forces entered the settlement to begin its evacuation. The forces were met with staunch resistance. Spikes were spread on the access roads, and barricades blocked the gates.

Many youths staying in the settlement fled from the security forces and holed themselves up in the synagogue, and hundreds others joined them during the day. Soon the three-story synagogue, which was inaugurated just three months ago, became the main bastion for the anti-disengagement activists.

Throughout the morning, the police and soldiers had restrained themselves, ignoring the resisters' curses. The forces first evacuated the religious college, girls' school and other public buildings, then turned to the settlers' homes.

Aside from a few incidents in which the police had to use force, this stage passed uneventfully. They reached the last house, belonging to Oz Kadmon, one of the settlement's leaders, at 5 P.M., by which time most of the forces were already exhausted. The forces entered Kadmon's house, removing each family member one by one. Kadmon himself was carried out last by four policemen, wrapped by a prayer shawl.

Security forces finally decided to evacuate the Kfar Darom synagogue yesterday afternoon at the same time the synagogue in another Gush Katif settlement, Neveh Dekalim, was being evacuated.

More radical

While more people were holed up in the Neveh Dekalim synagogue, security forces were far more concerned with an escalation at Kfar Darom, since activists there were considered to be far more radical.

"Although thousands of policemen and soldiers took part in breaking into the synagogue at Neveh Dekalim, it was mainly a Sisyphean project to get the hundreds of people holed up there out one by one," a police source said. "In Kfar Darom, on the other hand, there were many other factors demanding caution on our part to prevent the evacuation from getting out of hand."

When policemen began surrounding the Kfar Darom synagogue, activists shouted curses at them. The resisters locked the doors, and put dozens of tables and steel girders up against them to make it difficult to break into the synagogue.

Police opened the front doors with special tools, removed the objects blocking the way, and began evacuating hundreds of people barricaded on the first floor, one at a time. Those evacuated were immediately put into waiting buses nearby.

Police then used ladders and cranes to climb up to the synagogue's roof, which dozens of visiting anti-disengagement activists had barricaded with barbed wire, boards and steel rods. The resisters threw several objects, including eggs, paint-filled bulbs and watermelons, and even poured flammable material on the policemen as they made their way up to the roof.

The police called to the resisters on the roof by megaphone to come down

voluntarily, but their requests were not heeded. At about 6:30 P.M., two cranes lifted containers filled with policemen to the roof. The containers also were intended to serve as detention quarters for resisters. At the same time, an anti-riot machine sprayed water jets at the resisters, who remained unfazed.

Fear of roof collapse

As policemen tried to climb from the containers to the roof, resisters warded them off with sharp stakes and steel rods, preventing them from setting the containers down. However, after learning that the structure was built with the substandard PalKal material, the police feared that setting down the heavy containers, combined with the weight of some 200 people, might lead to the roof's collapse.

Shooting water jets at the resisters from the ground, the forces broke into the second story and climbed to the roof by ladder.

Struggling with the police until the last moment, the resisters were removed from the roof one by one and detained. The police said they intend to take legal measures against each of the protesters.