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SLUG: 2-326338 Israel Gaza Pullout (L-O)
TITLE=ISRAEL/ GAZA PULLOUT (L-Only)
HEADLINE: Israeli Settlers Launch Protest Against Gaza Pullout
INTRO: Israeli settlers have launched a two-day protest against the upcoming pullout from the Gaza Strip. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the police and army are putting on a show of force to stop the protests.
TEXT: With the Gaza pullout just two-weeks away, Jewish settlers and their supporters are rallying in a last-ditch attempt to stop it. The demonstration is taking place near the Gaza border in southern Israel.
The situation is tense because the settlers have vowed to defy a police ban and march Wednesday on the Gush Katif settlement bloc, which is slated for evacuation. But police spokeswoman Carla Oz told Israel Radio:
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"They will not be able to reach Gush Katif, we will be stopping any movement in that direction. Zero tolerance will be showed toward inciters and people that try to harm the police officers."
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The settlers say they do not want a confrontation, and they admit that they're no match for police and soldiers who are out in force. Eliza Herbst is a spokeswoman for the Council of Jewish Settlements.
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"We are putting very strict limitations on ourselves in that we are not going to allow any kind of violence. As soon as you are faced with 18-thousand, 20-thousand, police and soldiers who are armed and who are there to stop you in any physical way they can, and you are not willing to do any violence, then it is clear that you may not be getting in to Gush Katif."
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And if the settlers cannot get to Gush Katif, it means their protest strategy has failed. They had hoped to flood the settlements with tens of thousands of protesters to make it impossible for the government to implement the pullout. A similar protest fizzled last month after a show of force by the police and army.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged the settlers to give up the fight. He said the pullout is inevitable. (SIGNED)
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