Da Ha'aretz del 03/08/2005
Originale su http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=gush+katif&a...

Yesha orders thousands of youths to infiltrate Gush Katif

Pullout opponents head to Ofakim after Sderot rally ends quietly; police brace for mass infiltration, clashes

di Amos Harel, Nir Hasson, Jonathan Lis, Nadav Shragai

Leaders of the Yesha Council of settlements ordered thousands of youths opposed to the disengagement plan to infiltrate Gush Katif, instructing them not to resist in the event they are arrested by security forces, Israel Radio reported Wednesday morning.

Senior police officials said they expect most of the demonstrators to heed earlier directives against infiltration issued by the leadership of the Yesha Council, but that a few hundred extremists could clash with security forces and try to infiltrate Gush Katif.

The Gaza Strip settlements were three weeks ago declared a closed military zone ahead of the disengagement, and non-residents have not been allowed to enter the area since.

Kedumim Mayor Daniella Weiss was arrested overnight Tuesday along with five other people while attempting to sneak into the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported. The would-be infiltrators were arrested at a western Negev junction as they were making their way toward the Kissufim crossing but were released later in the morning.

Tens of thousands of right-wing activists participated in Tuesday's anti-disengagement rally in Sderot, after which they left the town and traveled south to Ofakim to continue their protests Wednesday, as had been agreed in advance with police.

A Palestinian attempt to target the demonstrators failed Tuesday when a Qassam rocket fired at Sderot landed by mistake in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanun, killing a Palestinian youth.

The police agreed to allow Tuesday's demonstration to be held following a day of negotiations on Monday, punctuated by belligerent statements from all sides. The police had originally said they would allow only a few thousand demonstrators to attend the rally due to concerns about Qassam attacks, but later decided to rescind the limitation. As late as 7:30 P.M. attendence was still sparse, but later that evening protesters flooded the town. The organizers said the crowd numbered 50,000, but police put the number at around half that.

At a meeting Monday night between the heads of the Yesha Council and Major General Ori Bar-Lev, chief of the Police Southern District, the Yesha leaders pledged to disperse the rally after a few hours and leave for Ofakim. They also said they would instruct people to go home on Friday. A senior officer at Police Headquarters told Haaretz he expects the organizers to keep their agreements. He said the Yesha leaders are concerned by the possibility of violent clashes with security forces and pledged to prevent them at all cost.

The police and the Israel Defense Forces are reportedly also concerned about possible provocations, such as an attempt to reach Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's home, Sycamore Ranch, near Sderot.

The IDF has stationed thousands of soldiers along the Green Line to thwart any attempt to infiltrate the Gaza Strip. Senior IDF officers took personal command of various sectors to ensure maximum control of the forces in the area. In addition to road blocks, mobile forces have also been deployed with various surveillance means. All told, some 18,000 troops and 12,000 police are involved in preventing protesters from getting to Gush Katif.

Police and the IDF had decided that the protesters would be dealt with mainly by the former, with six police brigadier generals commanding personnel.

THe IDF believes the Yesha Council leadership's control over events is diminishing, as grass-roots leaders made many of the arrangements for the protest without consulting the Yesha Council. The army is preparing for a number of scenarios, including small knots of protesters, possibly as many as "400 to 500 extremists," accidentally winding up in Palestinian refugee camps after breaking through the Gaza Strip fence in order to reach the settlements.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, who held a three-hour meeting Monday with the Yesha Council leadership in Tel Aviv, was unable to persuade them to cancel the rally in Sderot and instead to hold it somewhere else in the Negev, out of concern that a large gathering in Sderot might be a target for Qassam fire from Gaza. He told the leaders that safety outweighed the right to protest.

The heads of the Yesha Council responded that they had brought thousands of people to Gush Katif on Independence Day and Passover, where the threat of Qassams was much greater, and no one blocked their presence.

Earlier Monday, the settler leadership announced Tuesday night's rally would be held even if the police denied them a license. Yesha Council head Bentzi Lieberman argued that in the meeting with Mofaz, the defense minister had reneged on several points that had previously been agreed on with the police and the army.

In a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, the Yesha heads said, "Sharon has crossed another red line in the Israeli democracy. Only 24 hours after the government said it would not interfere in police decisions, it interfered."

The Yesha leaders called on people to get to Sderot Tuesday by any means possible and to circumvent the road blocks, but to avoid violence. Lieberman said that in their talks with police, the Yesha leadership had pledged not to approach Sycamore Ranch or the northern part of the fence around the Gaza Strip.

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