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Israeli Police Block Settlers from Marching on Gaza


Israeli security forces have blocked a bid by Jewish settlers to march on the Gaza Strip late Wednesday, in the latest protest against the upcoming pullout from the territory. The confrontation ended without violence.

Thousands of Israeli settlers tried to march on Jewish communities in Gaza that are slated for evacuation later this month. But they were blocked by a huge force of 17,000 soldiers and police. The two sides came face to face in southern Israel, and there was a tense standoff. But the settlers had vowed to avoid violence, and the confrontation ended peacefully.

The mood was bitter.

"This government is doing a terrible, terrible thing, they're giving a prize to terrorists," a protester says.

Demonstrators said they feel betrayed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"I feel swindled, I feel deceived because I voted for Ariel Sharon, I gave him my vote, my whole family's vote. And he in fact did the opposite of what he was meant to do," another protester says. "That is why I feel that my democratic power is to be here and to demonstrate against him."

Mr. Sharon was once the champion of the settlement movement, but he changed his mind and decided to dismantle 21 Jewish communities in Gaza along with four more in the West Bank. The settlers had hoped to thwart the pullout by flooding the settlements with thousands of protesters who refuse to leave. But they failed to do that, and it appears that the pullout will begin on schedule in two weeks.

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