Accessibility links

Breaking News

Israeli Settlers Vow to Defy Demonstration Ban

Israeli settlers have vowed to defy a government ban on a planned demonstration against the pullout from the Gaza Strip. In another development, Israel says it has reached an agreement with Egypt to secure the Gaza border after the withdrawal.

Jewish settlers and police are on a collision course, after the Israeli government banned a demonstration planned for Tuesday.

The settlers want to bring tens-of-thousands of protesters to the Gaza settlements slated for evacuation. With such a huge throng in Gaza, the settlers believe, it would be impossible to implement the so-called "disengagement" plan, which is due to begin in just two weeks.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the ban is justified.

"In this particular case, I think the effort is not to express an opinion, but to interfere with the decision of the government to carry out the disengagement," he said. "It is, therefore, not in the realm of the freedom of speech."

The settlers say the ban is anti-democratic, and they have vowed that the protest will take place.

"This demonstration is a popular expression of democracy," settlement leader Benzi Lieberman told a news conference. "We do not want confrontations or violence," he said, "but we will not be stopped from shouting out at injustice."

Security forces are prepared. Ten thousand police and soldiers will be deployed to prevent demonstrators from marching on Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel says it has reached an agreement with Egypt to secure the Gaza border after evacuating the settlements.

Egypt would deploy 750 troops along the border, enabling Israel to withdraw from the volatile "Philadelphia" Corridor. The area is a haven for weapons smuggling and the scene of frequent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Israel's parliament must approve the agreement, but there is sharp opposition. Critics say, if Israel abandons the corridor, Gaza will become a terrorist arsenal.