Last Updated Wed, 17 Aug 2005 11:26:28 EDT
Israeli security forces began the forcible removal of protesters in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday. Unarmed soldiers broke through burning barricades and marched door-to-door ordering people out of their homes in at least five settlements.
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Also today, An Israeli gunman opened fire on Palestinians in the West Bank, killing three and wounding two.
Reports say the gunman grabbed a weapon from a security guard at the industrial zone of a West Bank settlement, then opened fire on nearby Palestinians.
The gunman, reportedly a resident of a West Bank settlement, was arrested. News media reports said he opened fire in an attempt to disrupt the Gaza pullout, but the reports could not immediately be confirmed.
In Gaza, there were signs that resistance to the withdrawal would be less fierce than expected. In Ganei Tal, some residents said they expected everyone to leave voluntarily by the afternoon.
The fiercest resistance Tuesday had come from some 5,000 Jewish nationalists who slipped into Gaza in recent weeks to reinforce the anti-withdrawal camp.
In the Morag and Kerem Atzmona, protesters blocked the roads with overturned garbage containers, cement blocks and tree branches.
An Israeli woman in Netivot, just outside the Gaza Strip was seriously burned when she set fire to herself to protest the withdrawal.
The operation is part of Israel's plan to "disengage" from the Palestinians and the removal of settlements on some of the land wanted for a Palestinian state. Midnight Tuesday marked the deadline for Gaza settlers to leave or face forcible eviction.
Under Israel's plan to leave Gaza and four remote West Bank settlements, residents are being provided with new homes and other compensation. Officials said about half of Gaza's 8,500 settlers left the area before the deadline, and three settlements were empty.
Once Gaza is cleared of civilians, it will take troops about a month to dismantle military installations and relinquish the coastal strip to Palestinian control.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told his cabinet he was forming eight teams to co-ordinate the takeover of settlement land. He said that he had included representatives of the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements.
Palestinians held noisy demonstrations in Gaza City to celebrate the pullout. Young men cruised the city in open cars, some firing rifles into the air and brandishing rocket launchers.
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