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Disengagement Opponents Vow to March on Gaza Despite Police Ban

Israeli security forces have begun stopping buses filled with disengagement opponents from heading to a mass protest march to Gaza. Opponents of the government's plan to dismantle Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and a small portion of the West Bank have vowed to go ahead with the protest rally despite a police ban.

Rally organizers insist tens of thousands of protesters will march from the southern Israeli town, Netivot, toward Gaza, to reach the settlement block of Gush Katif by Wednesday.

Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra told Israel radio, the government will not allow the protesters to reach Gaza. He says the military has been instructed not to let the protesters pass. He warns of trouble if the protesters do not respect the law and says he hopes the situation will end in a way that no one will regret having gone on this march.

The military closed off the Gaza settlements to all non-residents, last week, to prevent outside protesters from reaching the area.

Settlers have clashed with police since the closure was imposed. Security forces again scuffled with settlers, Monday morning, as the settlers tried to break through the blockade.

The authorities have detailed up to 20,000 soldiers and police to prevent the protesters from reaching Gush Katif.

Settler leader Bentsi Lieberman said the government's decision to ban the march is undemocratic.

He says the march will go ahead. He says the protesters want to get into Gush Katif, but he also promised they would not defy the police and had no wish for a confrontation.

Security forces fear that hardliners among the demonstrators may not adhere to such promises.

Monday's planned protest march comes as Israeli troops and tanks remain massed along the Gaza Strip borders, poised for a major military intervention, if the Palestinian leadership does not stop militant attacks.

During the past week, six Israelis have died - five in a suicide bombing in the coastal city, Netanya, and another in a rocket attack by Palestinian militants from Gaza. Israel has since gone after Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants killing at least eight of them and detaining dozens of others. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will do his best to stop the attacks, but cautions it will take time.

An Egyptian delegation has been in Gaza to mediate an end to the violence and a return to the cease fire Israel and the Palestinians agreed to, five months ago. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is also expected in the region, this week, to ensure Israel's disengagement from Gaza stays on track for mid August.