The biggest show of strength yet by Israeli right-wingers opposed to the Gaza pullout…
Organisers say at least 300,000 people packed Rabin Square and nearby streets in central Tel Aviv. Other estimates suggest 100,000 or more attended.
Speakers urged the crowd to carry out acts of non-violent resistance to the evacuation which is scheduled to begin next week.
Protests could involve lying down on roads in southern Israel to block the army’s way to Gaza, and breaking through checkpoints to enter the territory and help settlers there.
In a sign of the passions the withdrawal has aroused, many demonstrators held up banners with strong messages such as “disengagement equals ethnic cleansing of Jews.”
The Prime Minister however is not budging an inch. In an interview with a newspaper, Ariel Sharon said “I have no regrets. Even if I had known ahead of time the extent of the resistance, I would have done it anyway.”
He has also lashed out at what he calls extremists in his own Likud party who he claims are constantly manoeuvring to undermine him and the Gaza plan.
The pullout will not be easy: according to an army source, 5,000 hardline activists have already infiltrated the Strip and are ready to act as human shields.