JERUSALEM, Aug. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Wednesday that he was to blame for the Gaza withdrawal, local newspaper Haaretz reported on its online edition.
"I want to truly appeal to everyone, not to attack the police, the women and men soldiers. Don't blame them. Don't make it hard on them. Don't hurt them, hurt me."
Speaking to reporters after talks with President Moshe Katsav, Sharon appealed to opponents of the disengagement to avoid physical and verbal confrontation with the security forces.
Katsav then interjected, saying that Sharon intended to say "'criticize me,' not 'hurt me.'"
Sharon called the images of Gaza settlers being removed from their homes "heartbreaking," and praised the restraint of both settlers and soldiers.
Israeli army and police began forcible removal of settlers on Wednesday after the midnight deadline for voluntary evacuation passed.
Under Sharon's disengagement plan, Israel started removing all 21 Gaza settlements and four settlements in the northern West Bank on Monday. Enditem