Anatomy of a pullout
Ynetnews offers an in depth look into what the upcoming pullout will look like; the first knock on the door, the evacuation teams, optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, and the flag coming down at the end of the day
TEL AVIV – It will start at eight o’clock in the morning.
By Ariella Ringel-Hoffman
Hello, my name is Moshe, the police officer who knocks on the door will say. I am here by the force of a Knesset decision and by law, and I’m asking you to accompany me and board the bus that will take you away from here.
If you need help carrying your belongings, he will say, I have a team here with me that would be glad to offer assistance. We can also assist you in carrying young children.
The proposal to begin the evacuation in early morning hours, before sunrise, was rejected by officials in early discussions. In the final briefing, minutes before the forces move in, the senior commanders will remind the troops the people they are about to remove from their homes are Israeli citizens.
“They are not our enemies. We will not surprise them in their beds, we won’t take crying babies out of their cribs,” the commanders will say. “We have time. Nothing is urgent. If the family asks for another minute, five minutes, fifteen minutes, give it to them. After all, those people planted the trees in their backyard with their own hands.”
The evacuation crew will wait outside the house, at some distance from the door, comprised of 16 unarmed soldiers and police.
All of them will have undergone long weeks of training, including operational and mental preparations. They are supposed to know what lies ahead, be familiar with all possible scenarios.
They will wait quietly until the officer in charge will give them the signal to move in.
The first hours will dictate what the evacuation will look like. Everyone knows this, both the troops and the evacuees.
Do it with determination but with sensitivity, the commanders will tell their troops. Safeguard their dignity, and maintain yours. Just don’t let tempers flare.
The optimistic scenario: 2 families a day
Each one of the evacuation crews will be tasked with evacuating two families a day on average. That is the most optimistic estimate.
The moment the evacuation of one community starts, it will continue until the mission is complete. Even if this means the last to be evacuated would be removed from their homes in the dead of night.
It may be unpleasant, security officials say, but nobody will be sleeping anyway.
The assumption behind this estimate, two families a day, is that the chances the family would indeed get up, gather the bags prepared the night before, get the children and board the bus, are slim.
Family members would likely remain seated. Parents and children hugging.
The officer in charge would signal his crew to come in, again request the family to accompany him, and when that does not happen, the evacuation by force will begin.
Four crew members will carry each of the adults, using the technique they practiced again and again, two people holding the legs, the two others holding the arms.
One hand between the elbow and the armpit, the other hand supporting the back.
The women will be carried by female soldiers and police officers. They are the ones who are also supposed to get the children out of the house.
The forces will carry or drag the evacuees to pre-determined pick-up locations, keep watch over them until the bus waiting outside the community is called in, and get the family on that bus.
Guards placed on the buses would ensure nobody escapes.
Once the bus is full, or nearly full, according to the commanding officer’s judgment, the driver will receive the order - move out.
Through the windows of the bus, family members would be able to see the place they called home slowly distancing, until it disappears.
What they would see is a blur swallowed up by clouds of dust, in the August haze, amidst a green and blue sea of hundreds of military and police vehicles and thousands of security forces, who have taken over what once was, and will no longer be, their home.
Where exactly the bus will take them to is a question still waiting for an answer.
The pessimistic scenario: Settlers open fire
There are other scenarios, however, much less optimistic ones. For example, one where the family does not open the door and does not respond to the police officer.
In that case, the officer is expected to dispatch IDF Home Front Command personnel, who would be waiting at a logistical center set up near the community.
A professional team will arrive at the house, break through the locked door, break the lock, and if that’s impossible, use hydraulic equipment that would disconnected the door from the doorstep.
They will be aware of the possibility the family had placed a fridge or a heavy piece of furniture behind the door, so breaking may not do the trick. In that case, windows will be broken through, even if they are barred.
Walls will be broken, too.
One way or another, the evacuation team would eventually be able to gain entry into the house and remove family members, even if they tie themselves to furnace pipes or crawl into the attic.
If they climb to the roof, a crane would be called in.
What could stop the house’s evacuation is the barrel pf a rifle in one of the windows, or a family who barricades itself and threatenes to blow up.
The orders in such cases are unequivocal and are valid for any situation that could pose a risk for the lives of troops or evacuees: the evacuation team would move away from the house, and responsibility will be transferred to a force made up of elite army officers, under the command of former Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance
unit commander, Amos Ben-Avraham.
The forces will block access to the house, and if needed, access to nearby houses.
Special force members would know what everyone else knows: This is not the kind of battle where time plays a role. There’s no need for quick decision.
They will wait for the negotiation team to join them, and if needed will wait for a local rabbi to be brought in.
The elite forces, highly skilled and equipped with cutting-edge technological means, are expected to not only neutralize the threat, but also get the barricading family out of the house alive.
The nightmare officials are grappling with is a scenario where the senior commander on the ground is forced to order snipers, placed in the security ring outside the settlement, to turn their rifles in the direction of the community.
We want to get out of there, with the residents, just the way we came in, senior commanders say - without a scratch.
Taking the flag down
Once a community is evacuated, it will be secured by the army until the movers arrive. They, with the help of civilian contractors, will remove the families’ belongings, load them onto trucks, and take them to special warehouses to be erected near the southern town of Be’er Sheva.
The process will be long and complex, and security officials stress that “we must not forget the photo albums.” Some belongings do not have a price tag and cannot be compensated if lost, they say.
And we still haven’t spoken about religious artifacts and the evacuation of synagogues and graves, a process that will be undertaken in conjunction with religious clerics.
The IDF Rabbinate has been working on this project for a long time now and dealing with difficult questions raised by soldiers.
The big difficulty, as it turns out, isn’t technical, but rather, mental.
When all this is done, and before the bulldozers appear, slowly moving into the communities, crushing ornamental trees and personally designed fences, the State of Israel will disconnect the electricity and water supply to the settlements.
The idea to disconnect them during the evacuation, as a means to pressure the residents, was rejected at early stages of planning.
Even during Operation Defensive Shield against West Bank terrorists in 2002, to take a vastly different example, the army refrained from disconnecting water and electricity in the Palestinian town of Jenin.
Will all structures in the settlements be razed, or would it only be residential buildings, or only military facilities, and what to do with the ruins? Those decisions have not yet been made.
And when the last bulldozer leaves, the flag will be lowered and removed from the mast.
The commander will say a few words, the exact wording has not yet been formulated, and the soldiers will stand at attention as the national anthem, HaTikva, will be sang for the last time.
The pictures of the tense, sweaty soldiers and police officers, the tears on their faces, the sense of frustration, the pain and terrible fatigue, will be broadcast around the world.
By this stage, the evacuation forces will already be in the northern West Bank.
The story was first published in newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth
|First Published: ||06.13.05, 11:49|