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Israelis Brace for Traffic Jams Amid Disengagement Protests

A right-wing Israeli protester holds a poster showing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon behind bars
Israeli police and motorists braced for traffic jams and gridlock this week as opponents of the government's planned withdrawal from Gaza again take their protests to the street.

Protest organizers call it a "democratic, mass civil protest." The Yesha Council of West Bank and Gaza settlements says it plans to have up to 100,000 anti-disengagement activists lining the sides of major roads throughout Israel to make the case against the government's plan to withdraw all settlements from Gaza and four small ones from the West Bank beginning in August.

Aliza Herbst, a spokeswoman for the council told VOA the protest, scheduled to last 15 minutes, was designed to make Israelis stop and think.

"The plan is at six o'clock Israel time, towards evening, for everyone wherever they are, to stop doing what they are doing and stand quietly for 15 minutes with orange banners, orange signs to make it clear they are doing it as a protest against the disengagement plan," said Ms. Herbst.

Orange has become the symbolic color for disengagement opponents, who often wear orange T-shirts or ribbons. For weeks young activists have been handing out orange ribbons for motorists to tie to their cars.

Disengagement opponents have taken their protests to the streets before, snarling traffic on some of the country's major highways.

Aliza Herbst says this week's actions are not aimed at disrupting traffic and should pose no danger.

"Our goal is to show our strength and solidarity and to let fence-sitters know that the majority of this country is against the disengagement plan, they should jump off the fence and land on the right side and against the disengagement plan," she added.

Opinion polls have shown a majority of Israelis favor the withdrawal, but settlers and their supporters constitute a vocal minority and they have taken their campaign to the streets.

Similar protests are being planned for Wednesday and throughout the summer. The disengagement from Gaza is scheduled to begin in mid-August.

During the weekend soldiers got a taste of what they could be facing if settlers resist attempts to remove them from their homes. Ten protesters and 10 soldiers were injured Sunday as the army knocked down abandoned buildings along the Gaza beachfront and scuffled with youths trying to stop the demolition. One soldier was taken away after he refused orders and shouted his support for the protesters.

On Monday settler youths set up a new outpost atop the rubble of the buildings knocked down the day before.