Israel has deployed a massive military contingent to try to stop ultra-nationalist protestors from staging mass demonstrations against the planned Gaza pullout. The rally started earlier in the desert town of Netivot, and is due to end on Wednesday with a huge march to the crossing point to the Gush Katif settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip. Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal plan, Israel is to start pulling out of the Gaza Strip as well as four settlements in the West Bank from mid-August. Opinion polls show a majority of Israelis back the plan, but a hard-core of ultra-nationalist settlers have vowed to resist. Sharon has sealed off all Gaza settlements to non-residents to prevent ultra-nationalists from pouring in. Around 20,000 police officers and soldiers have been mobilised to stop hundreds of buses carrying the demonstrators from reaching rallying points in southern Israel. Israel says the withdrawal remains on track despite a resurgence of violence in recent weeks after Palestinian militants killed five Israelis in a suicide attack.
Israel blocks pro-settler rally