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Israel on Security Alert Ahead of Tuesday Vote


One day before general elections in Israel, the candidates have made their final plea for votes while the military is on high alert and has imposed a ban on Palestinian travel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in an effort to avert possible militant attacks.

Israel has imposed a complete travel ban for Palestinians to come into Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip until after Tuesday's elections. This represents a further tightening of already stringent travel restrictions for Palestinians.

The army briefly lifted curfews on several West Bank towns on Monday, allowing residents to go out for any necessary shopping. But in general, the military is expected to keep a tight lid on the Palestinian territories on Tuesday, as Israelis go to the polls.

The move follows warnings by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz about possible attacks during Tuesday's elections.

More than 26,000 police and soldiers are also to be deployed around the country to guard against possible Palestinian attacks during the voting.

The polls will open early Tuesday and stay open until late in the evening as Israel's close to five million eligible voters can go to the nearly eight thousand polling stations around the country to cast their ballot for members of the legislature.

The head of the party with the most votes will then be asked to form a new government. If opinion polls are correct that task will fall to Ariel Sharon and his right wing Likud Party, which continues to hold a comfortable lead over its main rival Labor and any of the other remaining parties in the running.

Winding up his campaign, Mr. Sharon called on supporters to get out the vote and not become complacent. He chose as his last campaign stop Haifa, the home town of his main rival, Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna.

Mr. Mitzna used his final television ad Sunday night to call on voters to not give in to frustration and disillusionment and to return to the fold of the Labor Party.

Opinion polls estimate the Likud Party will end up with more than 30 seats in the 120-member legislature, while Labor is only expected to get around 18 seats.

Despite the commanding lead, Likud is not expected to get an outright majority and speculation has already begun where Mr. Sharon will begin looking for coalition partners for his new government.

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