Israeli bulldozers reduce Gaza settler homes to rubble

PEAT SADE, Gaza Strip — “The world turns. A while ago we were destroying Palestinian homes, and now we’re destroying Jewish homes,” remarked an Israeli soldier on Sunday as he watched bulldozers smash into the homes of settlers evicted from the Gaza Strip.
The modest homes in the tiny settlement of Peat Sade, near the Egyptian border, crunched under the force of the vehicles, their red-tiled roofs caving in as the bulldozers knocked down walls and ploughed into what once were bedrooms or kitchens.

The home of Claude, Claudine and Giora Chazam was the first to go. Their names were painted on a wooden plaque hanging by the garden fence.

Theirs was one of the largest of the 61 houses in the settlement, which was cleared of its residents last week, but it stood no chance against caterpillar bulldozers and mechanical diggers.

The diggers — ironically orange-coloured, the colour of the resistance to the Gaza pullout plan — smashed its roof and then the bulldozers moved in.

In 20 minutes the two-storey building was nothing more than a mass of dusty rubble and broken planks of wood.

The machines moved on, continuing their task of wiping out the settlement that is separated from the Mediterranean sea by a fenced-off Palestinian enclave and which has a small army base attached to it to guard against Palestinian attacks.

The demolitions marked a new stage in the Israeli pullout from Gaza, where some 8,000 Jews had lived in heavily-fortified settlements in the midst of some 1.3 million mostly impoverished Palestinians.

Some homes had been broken up in other settlements late last week before the operation was halted for the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day, but the demolition got under way in earnest here and in other settlements on Sunday.

The Israelis are due to hand the land back to the Palestinians within weeks, once homes, army bases and other buildings have been demolished. “I’m sad to watch this, but it had to be done,” said the soldier, who would not give his name, as he watched yet another house fall to the advancing machines.

Nearby stood army bulldozers similar to the ones the Israeli army has used to demolish the homes of Palestinians who carried out suicide bombings. But the vehicles in action were all from a private company contracted by the defence ministry, and army officers stressed that no soldiers or army equipment would be used in the destruction.

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