By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Staff
Wed., January 12, 2005 Shvat 2, 5765
Reprinted with permission from Haaretz ©
The Israel Defense Forces and police announced Wednesday morning that they have finalized operative plans for the evacuation of the Gaza and West Bank settlements under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, Israel Radio said.
According to the report, the three-month long pullout will begin in July. The initiative will begin with evacuation of one settlement in the Gaza Strip, in order to evaluate the degree of settlers' resistance.
The rest of the Gush Katif settlements are set to be evacuated over a two-month period, the report said. The evacuation of the West Bank settlements is slated to begin in September and will take around two weeks.
The operation is code-named Shevet Ahim, an allusion to Psalm 132, which begins "Behold, how good and how pleasant, for brethren to dwell together in unity."
Over 5,000 police officers and soldiers will take part in the operation, accompanied by camera crews who will document the evacuation process and medical staff to help in the event of any clashes.
IDF planning mobile presence after W. Bank pullout
The Israel Defense Forces is planning to maintain a mobile presence in the area of the four settlements to be evacuated from the northern West Bank, according to recommendations submitted to the political echelons by the IDF.
The disengagement plan calls for the evacuation of the settlements of Ganim, Kadim, Sa-Nur and Homesh, as well as the Mevo Dotan army base near Jenin. IDF posts near the four settlements will also be evacuated.
The northern West Bank settlements are to be evacuated after the isolated settlements of Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag in the Gaza Strip, and before Gush Katif and the pullout from Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nissanit in the northern Gaza Strip.
At this point the pullout from the northern West Bank, expected to take two months, seems likely to take place in July. The June cabinet decision on disengagement states that Israel will withdrawal from "the area of the northern West Bank and from all permanent military facilities in the area, and will redeploy outside the evacuated area."
The decision notes that there will be no permanent IDF presence in the area, but that Israel reserves the right to conduct preventive and reactive operations if terror attacks emanate from evacuated areas.
Although the decision states the Palestinians will have territorial contiguity in this area, the IDF takes it to mean that mobile military operations will be possible even after the pullout, although the extent of such operations is not clear.
There are apparently differences between Israel's approach to military action in the northern West Bank and in the Gaza Strip: Operations in the northern West Bank may be more extensive and frequent than those in the Strip, because much of the area to be evacuated is rural, without the Strip's urban population density. In any case, Israel will continue its security operations in the neighboring areas of the West Bank that have not been evacuated, like Nablus and its environs.
Shin Bet security services chief Avi Dichter warned recently that a complete pullout from the Jenin area could turn the northern West Bank into "Fatahland," a reference to an area in southern Lebanon taken over by Fatah terrorists in the 1970s. The IDF believes limited military activities might help prevent this process.
Approximately 45 days before the expected pullout, the area to be evacuated will be declared a closed military zone, off limits to outsiders.
Opposition to the pullout is expected from Sa-Nur and Homesh, as Ganim and Kadim, east of Jenin, are not "ideological" settlements. Only about half the families who lived in the latter two settlements before the second intifada are still there, and most have expressed willingness to leave as the compensation process moves ahead.
The residents rejected offers from the Yesha Council of Settlements to send them additional families to "shore up" the settlements. On the other hand, the number of residents of Sa-Nur increased in the last year from about 10 to 68 due to an influx of ideological settlers. Homesh has also seen a population increase.