Israeli protesters try to wait out police
Anti-pullout demonstrators plan march to Gaza
From John Vause
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KFAR MAIMON, Israel (CNN) -- Organizers of an anti-pullout protest told thousands of Israeli demonstrators Tuesday to bed down in a bid to wait out authorities ordered to block their march toward the Gaza border.
Earlier, the organizers announced their intention to march toward Gaza despite 20,000 Israeli troops and policemen who have been deployed to stop them.
That plan was apparently scuttled after scuffles broke out between protesters and Israeli police near the synagogue in the small farming community of Kfar Maimon.
In the pushing and shoving, Israeli police arrested about a dozen protesters.
The protesters oppose Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Jewish settlers and Israeli troops from Gaza and four small areas of the West Bank.
While Israeli authorities have declared the protest illegal, the organizers maintain they have the right to protest against the disengagement plan. They have vowed that their march toward the border will be peaceful.
Protest organizers intend to march from Kfar Maimon through the Kissufim Crossing about 14 kilometers (about 9 miles) to the west, joining settlers who live in the Gush Katif block of Jewish settlements.
The protesters say they intend to stay and support the settlers when the Israeli government begins its withdrawal in less than a month.
Police estimate the number of the protesters at around 10,000, but organizers say there are many more. The group includes large numbers of women and children.
Protest leaders urged their followers to use their cell phones to make calls and send text messages urging more protesters to come to the area.
Israeli police commanders met with the organizers during the morning, trying to defuse any attempt to march toward Gaza, which has been declared a closed military zone.
Following the meeting, which apparently ended without any agreement, an Israeli police commander addressed the crowd over the village's public address system.
He told them they would not be allowed to march toward Gaza but could march east away from Gaza where buses would be waiting to carry them back to their homes.
As he spoke, the public address system shut down, silencing the commander in midsentence.
On Monday, Israeli police blocked hundreds of buses hired to carry protesters to the Gaza border area. Sharon has said the protesters will not be allowed to march any further. (Full story)
Gaza has been closed to everyone except residents.
Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told CNN the Israeli government is determined to carry out the withdrawal plan.
Olmert said the plan -- which will remove about 8,000 Jewish settlers and the Israeli troops who now guard them -- will create a new landscape in the Middle East that will allow for the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
The demonstration comes at a critical time. Likud party rebels in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, plan to present a bill Wednesday to delay the disengagement.
Elsewhere, Israeli and Palestinian sources said Israeli troops killed two Islamic Jihad militants Tuesday in a West Bank village near Jenin.
And late Tuesday, Palestinian leaders and their rivals in the Islamic militant group Hamas announced they have reached a truce.
The deal will end recent clashes in northern Gaza between gunmen from the two sides, a spokesman said.
A joint statement from Hamas and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement pledged "to end all armed presence in northern Gaza streets that led in the last 24 hours to bloodshed between Palestinans."
Sufian Abu Zaida, the Palestinian Authority's minister of prisoner affairs, and Hamas leader Sheikh Nizar Rayan announced the agreement Tuesday night. They said they plan to enforce the agreement across Gaza.
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization whose military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and attacks against the Israeli military.
Israel and the U.S. State Department consider Hamas a terrorist organization, although it also operates an extensive social services network in the Palestinian territories.
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