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Israeli troops storm Gaza hotel -

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Israeli troops storm Gaza hotel

AM - Friday, 1 July , 2005 08:15:00

Reporter: Mark Willacy

TONY EASTLEY: Hundreds of Israeli troops have stormed a Gaza Strip hotel being used as a stronghold
by extremist Jewish settlers.

Declaring the Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza a "closed military zone", the security forces
moved in to remove the protestors who'd been holed up in the disused hotel for weeks.

Israeli authorities fear that radical settlers will continue to try to get into Gush Katif to
thwart Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans for a withdrawal from Gaza.

Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy made it into Gush Katif just before it was declared "off
limits", and he filed this report from the scene of the clashes between the soldiers and settlers.

MARK WILLACY: I'm now watching as at least a dozen busloads of Israeli police and border police are
moving in towards the hotel. There are border police in full riot gear, they have facemasks,
shields, they have batons, they even have ladders so they can scale into the hotel - the decision
has obviously been made to go in.

(sound of yelling and fighting)

Tempers are flaring right here, right in front of me. There are settlers fighting with soldiers,
it's getting pretty heated, it's getting very heated and very out of hand. They're just dragging
these settlers back towards the barricade that they've set up.

VOX POP: This is not the way Jews treat Jews, this is not the Warsaw ghetto. This is a land of
freedom for Jews.

MARK WILLACY: Some simply walked out, but other residents of the Palm Beach hotel were dragged out,
kicking and screaming "Jews don't expel Jews".

For the past few days tension here in Gush Katif has begun to boil.

Two days ago, settler youths from the hotel stoned a Palestinian teenager before trying to lynch
him in a nearby village, in an attack Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned as "barbaric
and heartless".

The Palestinian boy was rescued by Israeli journalists.

But before fleeing the scene, the teenage settlers scrawled "Muhammad is a pig" on a wall in the
Palestinian village.

Fearing more violence from Jewish activists, the Israeli army has now declared Gush Katif a closed
military zone.

(TO SOLDIER): Can you tell me what's the problem?

SOLIDER: The area in front of us is a closed military zone.

MARK WILLACY: Have you got ...

SOLDIER: The only way to get in is with IDF spokesman permission.

MARK WILLACY: Thousands of soldiers are now on high alert, some inside Gush Katif, others manning
checkpoints on the roads into the settlement bloc.

The storming of the Palm Beach hotel is a full dress rehearsal for what's expected in August, when
the army and police move in to evacuate 8,000 Gaza settlers.

It's going to be a long, hot summer with Israeli pitted against Israeli.

This is Mark Willacy in Gush Katif in Gaza for AM.