Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is facing more challenges to his plan to form a new government and push through his disengagement plan from Palestinian areas. Jewish settlers began forming a human chain from Gaza to Jerusalem to protest the plan.

Thousands of Israelis came out in force to rally public support against Mr. Sharon's plan to dismantle all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank by the end of next year.

More than 100,000 people were expected to turn out to form a human chain between Jewish settlements in southern Gaza and Jerusalem to symbolize that Gaza is connected to Israel and should not be abandoned.

Among those taking part are the speaker of the Israeli parliament, Reuven Rivlin, a member of Mr. Sharon's Likud Party, and more than two dozen other members of parliament from various right-wing factions.

The public show of opposition comes as the prime minister is attempting to forge a new national unity government to ensure the parliamentary approval of his disengagement plan.

Mr. Sharon's Cabinet endorsed the plan earlier this year, but some ministers resigned in protest, and the prime minister lost his parliamentary majority.

Despite opposition from within his own party, Mr. Sharon wants to rebuild his coalition with the participation of the Labor Party, which supports his plan.

Meanwhile, rebel members of Mr. Sharon's Likud Party are to discuss ways of stopping the prime minister from bringing Labor into the government.