Israelis gather to fight removal of Gaza settlers,00.html

(Gold9472: Unfortunately, I can imagine a lot of bloodshed during this event... would you let someone throw you out of your home?)

Chris McGreal in Sderot
Wednesday August 3, 2005
The Guardian

Thousands of rightwing Israelis rallied near the Gaza Strip border last night ahead of a threatened showdown with the army and police over the government's plan to remove all Jewish settlers from Gaza and bulldoze their homes later this month.

About 15,000 soldiers and policemen were deployed near the Gaza border, and around the Israeli town of Sderot where the rally took place, to prevent a last-ditch attempt to stop the removal of about 8,000 Jewish settlers by marching into the Gush Katif settlement block.

Police said about 25,000 people attended the rally.

The government banned the march and denounced it as anti-democratic but some hardline settler leaders said they would still attempt to move large groups of people towards Gush Katif today.

The threatened confrontation is seen as a crucial test of how far the settler leadership, known as the Yesha council, is prepared to carry its protest after it was strongly criticised by hardline opponents of Ariel Sharon's "disengagement plan" for backing down when thousands of policemen and soldiers blocked a similar march a fortnight ago.

"We will march to Gush Katif," said Pinchas Wallerstein, a Yesha council leader from the Gaza Strip. "This time they will not stop us. The battle will be determined but non-violent."

Many at the rally said they intended to join the confrontation. As in previous rallies against the Gaza pullout, teenagers made up a large proportion of the crowd.

Settler leaders have drawn up a plan for several marches converging on Gush Katif in an effort to divide and disperse the police and soldiers.

Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, denounced the threatened protest as anti-democratic. "There is an attempt here by the demonstrators to create a confrontation. This is an attempt to determine by force the governmental stance of the state of Israel," he told army radio.

In practice, the settler movement is divided. A hard core believes the withdrawal from Gaza can be prevented by causing such mass disruption in the affected settlements and across Israel that the police and army find it impossible to remove the settlers.

But while the Yesha council maintains in public that the Gaza withdrawal can be stopped, in private some settler leaders concede the battle is lost. They say the mass protests, including tactics to create chaos on the roads and overwhelm the security forces, are intended to cause so much upheaval that neither the Israeli public nor the government will have the stomach for further withdrawals from West Bank settlements.

"I think we have to face up to the fact that Gaza is lost. Sharon is determined. He's staked his political life on it," said one settler leader who declined to be named. "But there's still a lot to fight for. There are small settlements caught on the wrong side of the fence [the West Bank security barrier]. We want all of Israel to know that if this government, or any government, thinks that after this it can start to surrender them next then there will be a very high price to pay."

· A three-year old Palestinian boy was killed and nine Palestinians were wounded in the northern Gaza Strip late last night when rockets launched by militants misfired and landed in Palestinian areas, rescue workers said.

Among the wounded were five children, aged four to 11, including four children of Hisham Abdel Razek, a senior official in the ruling Fatah party and a former Palestinian cabinet minister. Abdel Razek's wife was also wounded.