BREITBART.COM - Just The News: "Israeli Riot Police Storm Gaza Synagogues
Aug 18 8:06 PM US/Eastern
By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
Associated Press Writer
KFAR DAROM, Gaza Strip
0818gaza Riot troops stormed synagogues in two hardline Jewish settlements Thursday to evict hundreds of militant holdouts who locked arms in a human chain and pelted soldiers with acid, oil and sand, the most violent clashes in Israel's historic Gaza pullout.
By the close of the day, 14,000 unarmed forces had cleared all but four of Gaza's 21 settlements _ including Kfar Darom and Neve Dekalim, pillars of resistance to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to cede Gaza to the Palestinians and alter the course of Mideast peacemaking.
Dozens of protesters at Kfar Darom sequestered themselves behind razor-wire on the synagogue roof, at first singing and waving flags, then attacking soldiers below with their arsenal of caustic liquids and objects, including paint-filled lightbulbs. Police and soldiers stripped off their clothes after being doused. Comrades poured water on their heads and torsos to wash them.
Breaking the siege, army cranes lowered metal cages filled with helmeted troops onto the roof, as cannon sprayed protesters with blasts of blue-tinted water. Other troops carrying wire cutters climbed ladders that became slick with oil.
At Neve Dekalim, troops wrestled for hours against some 1,500 extremists making their last stand inside Gaza's largest synagogue. Protesters lay on the floor with their arms linked, kicking against the Israeli forces while supporters held their shoulders in a tug-of- war.
After breaking the human chain, troops dragged protesters out of the synagogue one by one, holding them by their arms and legs as they twisted and squirmed. Other protesters chanted 'blasphemy, blasphemy.' One religious soldier, who wore a skullcap, suffered a panic attack and was taken away by medics.
Outside, teenage girls confronted a wall of troops surrounding the building, waving their fists and screaming, 'You're driving Jews out of a synagogue. The last time this happened was the Holocaust. ... You're Jews, you have a Jewish heart, you don't have to do this.'
For years, 8,500 Israelis lived among Gaza's 1.3 million Palestinians in perpetual tension and frequently lethal violence. The standoff at the synagogues was a symbolic climax to the withdrawal operation that started early Wednesday, since many of the settlers are Orthodox Jews who believe Gaza is the biblical birthright of the Jewish people.
Palestinians watched the drama in satisfaction from the rooftops of their nearby homes. 'I'm standing here without any fear that Israelis will shoot at me because their battle today is against themselves,' said Mohammed Bashir, a farmer in the town of Deir al-Balah, near Kfar Darom.
Thursday's evictions leave several hundred people still in Gaza. Evictions of the remaining four settlements, which will be suspended before Friday evening for the Jewish Sabbath, could be completed by next week, officials said _ far earlier than planned.
President Bush was receiving regular updates on the withdrawal, White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, told reporters in Crawford, Texas.
'We understand the deep sentiments that are felt and the difficulty one feels when leaving their home,' she said. 'We agree that the disengagement will only make Israel stronger. We agree with Prime Minister Sharon on that. And the president has also said that this will bring our two countries closer together.'
At least 41 police and soldiers and 17 civilians were injured during Thursday's raids on six settlements, including Neve Dekalim and Kfar Darom, police said. In Kfar Darom, about 50 people were arrested."