All but one Gaza settlements evacuated

Gaza evacuation has almost come to its end, there is one settlement left to be emptied. Israel declared Sunday it had finished evacuating Gaza's principal bloc of Jewish settlements.

Israeli soldiers and police will start evacuating Netzarim south of Gaza City after they finished emptying five other settlements yesterday, the Army said. Evacuations of West Bank settlements will start tomorrow.

Israel finished emptying five settlements yesterday, removing residents from Slav, Dugit, Elei Sinai, Katif and Atzmona, the army said in e-mailed statements.

That leaves Netzarim as the last inhabited Gaza settlement, with evacuation scheduled for tomorrow, the army said, adding that residents requested that reporters be barred from witnessing their departure.

The army expanded operations to demolish homes in evacuated settlements after the cabinet authorized final eviction orders, Bloomberg reports.

Demolition crews used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to destroy houses in the Gaza settlement of Peat Sadeh, beginning an operation that will spread to the other evacuated communities, the army said. Israel promised to destroy all buildings before turning the territory over to the Palestinian Authority.

Cabinet ministers in Jerusalem voted 16 to 4 to evacuate the last three settlements in Gaza and four that are slated for dismantling in the West Bank, which may enable troops to clear out all the residents by week's end.

Israeli leaders were expressing shock Sunday over the violent turn the evacuation took last week when militant Jewish youths, mainly from outside Gaza, made a last stand on the rooftop of a synagogue in Kfar Darom. The youngsters pelted unarmed soldiers and riot police with paint, rocks and paint thinner, and used sharp poles to try to repel them, Los Angeles Times says.

Sharon, addressing his Cabinet, described such resistance as "wild acts that I think border on crimes," according to Israeli media reports.

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