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Israel's Defense Chief Promises Tough Action Against Gaza Pullout Opponents

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says tough action will be taken against anyone trying to disrupt Israels pullout from the Gaza Strip. The comments come as the deadline approaches for settlers to leave the Palestinian territory or be forcibly evicted.

The Israeli defense chief said the army and police will make every effort to maintain law and order and warned that anyone acting illegally will be treated according to the law. Mr. Mofaz told a Jerusalem news conference that he expects about half of the 8,500 Gaza settlers to leave voluntarily before the deadline midnight Tuesday night.

Israel security forces clashed with Jewish extremists attempting to block moving vans from entering Neve Dekalim, the largest of the Gaza settlements.

Commander Ben Ishai said police will remove the resistors to allow the shipping containers delivered to the settlers who had ordered them in preparation for their evacuation.

Police said they arrested several protestors who had scuffled with police and soldiers.

Elsewhere, Israeli troops fired warning shots at Palestinian youths who rushed a wall outside a settlement to place a flag from the militant Hamas on it. Some 200 Hamas activists and supporters were in the crowd which was addressed by Hamas spokesman Younis al-Astal who told them the evacuation from Gaza is only the first step. He said eventually Jerusalem and, as he put it, every inch of Palestinian land from the sea to the Jordan river would be liberated. He said resistance is the only path to victory for the Palestinian people.