View Full Version : Synagogues Burn In Gaza

09-12-2005, 08:37 PM
Synagogues burn in Gaza


Using bulldozers and their bare hands, Palestinians began torching and demolishing synagogues across the Gaza Strip today, erasing the last remaining emblems of 38 years of Jewish occupation.

(Gold9472: Very sad.)

By Simon Freeman, Times Online, and Agencies

In Netzarim, just to the south of Gaza City, mobs of cheering youths set fire to the abandoned temple soon after the last departing Israeli soldiers closed the gates behind them at around 2.30am.

As dawn broke this morning, flames from burning buildings lit up the sky above several other of the 21 vacated Gaza settlements before demolition teams moved in.

"The Israelis destroyed our homes and our mosques.
Today it is our turn to destroy theirs,” said one man in Netzarim, who was hitting the building with a large hammer.

The scenes, accompanied by the smashing and looting of other ruined buildings, are likely to be repeated across the coastal strip in coming days. The Palestinian Authority ruled yesterday that it would destroy all of the 19 remaining empty synagogues.

Israeli ministers had initially sought to raze the temples with their own troops to prevent possible desecration but at the last minute bowed to pressure from leading rabbis citing Jewish law.

Palestinian officials then hoped to prevent the buildings from being over-run, aware that the uncomfortable images of their destruction would over-shadow the proposed celebrations.

"We don't want to be put in a situation that we are demolishing synagogues in front of the world," said the Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

This morning, however, clouds of black smoke trailed across the sky above four of the abandoned settlements. The images were seized upon by opponents to Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement from Gaza as a portent for the Palestinian-controlled strip's relationship with Israel.

Silvan Shalom, Israel's Foreign Minister, said: “The world is looking to Abu Mazen to see if he can control this territory, and the anarchy that we could face today is not encouraging us for the future."

President Mahmoud Abbas, however, refused to be distracted from what he described as "a day of happiness and joy that the Palestinian people have not witnessed for a century".

"Much work still needs to be done but nothing can take away from this victory," he told reporters in Gaza City.

Israel’s Gaza divisional commander General Avi Kochavi was the last to go, exiting through the metal gates on the Kissufim crossing where military bulldozers dug up mounds of earth to block the entrance. "The mission has been completed," he said. "Israel’s presence of 38 years has come to an end."

Celebrating Palestinians chanted "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest) and held up pictures of militants killed in an uprising. Some kissed the ground. Others scampered down to pristine beaches from which they have been banned for decades.

Members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were among the first to scramble into the settlements, trying to plant their faction’s flags on the highest ground.

In Neve Dekalim the green flag of Hamas group hung from the roof of the ransacked synagogue and the black flag of Islamic Jihad was raised from a wall in the compound. A Nazi swastika was spray-painted on the wall. Police stood helplessly nearby.

"Today is the happiest day in my life," said Jawad Abu Lafi, 50, after praying amid the rubble of one former settlement.

The jubilation is likely to be short-lived as recriminations build over Israel's decision to remain in control of all border crossings, air space and waters.

Mr Abbas must also begin to enforce law and order in the micro-state and rein in powerful militant groups which refuse to disarm. Israel has threatened massive retaliation if attacks from Gaza continue.

"We will not tolerate their ineptitude, turn a blind eye to their failures or ignore acts of terror. They will not be able to shirk their responsibility," said Israel's army chief of staff Dan Halutz.

As the last troops left, a postmortem was being conducted into why Israel ever occupied a territory whose population was intrinsically hostile.

"The occupation of the Gaza Strip was an historic mistake," said Shimon Peres, the Deputy Prime Minister.

"We must ensure that the Gaza Strip does not become a prison or a place of misery."

In Gaza, Abdullah Franji, a top official in Mr Abbas’s Fatah party, put a Palestinian flag around his shoulders as he toured the northern settlement of Elei Sinai.

“Today our people are smelling freedom,” he said. “We hope that our joy will be complete with free borders, with a connection to the West Bank and to have Gaza as the first step toward achieving the Palestinian state.”

Mohammed al-Hindi, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, who was accompanied by dozens of followers, said: “Today is the beginning of a new era. The battle is still ahead of us. Gaza is only the first step.

“The beginning will be when we liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

09-12-2005, 10:49 PM
What's more sad if 1 million people being forced to evacuate there homes for centuries and had to run for their lives and into refugee camps. Now that's sad.