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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Army storms West Bank settlements
Soldiers take away a settler at Sanur
There were little pockets of resistance, but no violence
Israeli troops are evicting residents of two Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a day after ending the operation to remove 8,500 settlers from Gaza.

They met little resistance, but at one point, a crane was used to lift troops onto a rooftop at the settlement of Sanur to take protesters down.

A settler was arrested in the other settlement of Homesh after attempting to stab a soldier, Israeli media said.

The closure of 21 settlements in Gaza ended on Monday in a quick operation.

It is the first time Israel has withdrawn from Palestinian land captured in the 1967 war.

There are approximately 450,000 Jewish settlers in about 120 settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he will not give up the main settlements blocks - or halt settlement building, as required by the US-backed roadmap peace plan.

Iron barricade

Thousands of the troops used in the Gaza operation were redeployed to the West Bank for the operation.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Sanur says that the atmosphere is calm, despite media reports that radical settlers had weapons and could resort to violence.

There was some activity at synagogues in the two settlements, where troops had to cut through iron barricades before carrying out protesters.

Others went house to house evicting settlers, some of whom confronted them.

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A group of around 30-40 protesters mounted the last of the resistance on the roof of an old Ottoman fort in Sanur.

Riot police firing water cannon stepped from containers hoisted by cranes onto the roof before taking them down and completing the evacuation.

In Homesh troops removed a small group of protesters from the roof of a religious school using a bulldozer shovel.

The army released footage of riot police being pelted with tomatoes, flour, paint and other substances from the roof by angry settlers in Homesh.

Five policemen were lightly wounded in Homesh, including a soldier hit by a stone, Haaretz newspaper reported.

It said that in addition to the man held for allegedly attempting to stab the Israeli soldier, two other protesters were also arrested in Homesh on Tuesday.

New page?

Meanwhile Palestinians watched the evictions, saying they were preparing to celebrate.

They told the BBC the settlers harassed their children and would not let them use the village's cemetery, located on the slope of the hill.

Youths burning an Israeli flag at Homesh

The residents of Ganim and Kadim, two other settlements in the northern West Bank, have already left voluntarily.

The evacuation will make farming easier for local Palestinians who will be able to move around freely, correspondents say.

Security in the area will remain in Israeli hands unlike in the Gaza Strip where the Israelis are withdrawing entirely to hand over security to the Palestinian Authority.

After the Gaza pull-out, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders spoke by phone - their first conversation for two months.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called Mr Sharon and expressed hope the withdrawal would open a new page in relations, Mr Sharon's office said.

US President George W Bush hailed the Gaza evacuation as an "historic step" that would bolster the search for peace in the Middle East.

The houses of the settlers are being demolished in agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which will assume responsibility for the land once the Israeli army has left.




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