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Israeli troops begin forced evictions of Gaza settlers

[JURIST] The Israeli army began evicting residents of Gaza [JURIST report] Wednesday, and despite heavy resistance in some areas, officials believe the evacuation could be complete within 48 hours. Of the 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip and four isolated West Bank settlements to be evacuated, two of them are already empty and it is estimated that half of the 8,500 settlers have already left. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [Wikipedia profile] has asked residents not to attack or blame the soldiers for the pull-out and has praised the majority of settlers for behaving "honorably and with restraint." Sharon also praised the troops for their "great sensitivity." BBC News has more.

11:15 AM ET - Israeli troops continue forced evacuations in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank Wednesday, entering Gaza's largest synagogue and carrying out worshippers still wrapped in prayer shawls. In the West Bank, an Israeli grabbed a security guard's gun and opened fire, killing at least three Palestinians. Despite these incidents, a growing number of settlement residents seem to be accepting the withdrawal plan [IDF disengagement website; Palestinian MOFA backgrounder]. AP has more.

1:00 PM ET - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [official website] condemned the West Bank shooting as an acts of "Jewish terror," saying the shooting was the product of "twisted thinking, aimed at stopping the disengagement." AP has more. The Israel Defense Forces' official disengagement website has the latest updates on the evacuation process.

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