yamitSome 50 Jewish Sinai settlers who had been trying to disrupt the dismantling of a water pipeline in the Kadesh Barnes settlement were dispersed by the army yesterday. About 40 were arrested and one man was taken away in hand-cuffs. This was the first time the army moved against the ultranationalists in Sinai who have been trying to obstruct Israel’s withdrawal from the area.

The pipeline being dismantled is part of a central line connecting the Kadesh Barnes settlement with Yamit and the southern Gaza Strip. It supplies water to Jewish settlements in the northeastern Sinai. The dismantling of the pipeline is one of the key moves to Israel’s withdrawal.

The work was halted earlier in the week when many of the settlers lay down in the path of bulldozers. They said their resistance to the dismantling will continue because it is not possible for them to live in the desert area without water.

Before the army moved, it sealed off the area to prevent settlers from calling in reinforcement from nearby Yamit, the focal point of resistance to Israel’s withdrawal. For months the government has avoided confrontation with the settlers, and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon has until now opposed any physical action against them.