After Sderot rally, Yesha vows to march to Gush Katif
Tens of thousands of anti-disengagement protesters are rallying in the western Negev town of Sderot.
According to police estimates, about 20,000 people are on hand while the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yesha Council) are saying that at least 40,000 had arrived.
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra arrived at the site but was greeted by angry protesters. His security guards managed to extract him after dozens of activists surrounded and directed a barrage of slurs at him.
An anti-disengagement demonstrator walks with his children to the protest in Sderot Tuesday.
Settlers plan march to Gush Katif from the westen Negev towns of Sderot and Ofakim
Earlier, a 4-km. line of cars and buses was reported at the entrance to Sderot. Police also confirmed that there were hundreds of buses and cars in the vicinity of the town.
Head of the Binyamin Regional Council Pinhas Wallerstein said he expected over 50,000 to attend.
Wallerstein said that as of 6 p.m., has yet to sign the protest permit. According to Wallerstein, police had reneged on the agreement as it said it would only allow several thousand to reach Sderot.
Wallerstien stressed that he did not plan to go home after the event. Yesha leaders plan to set up a base in Ofakim, located about 30 km. South of Sderot, and stay there at least until next week.
He made clear that the Sderot-to-Ofakim leg of the protest was only the first step. "From Ofakim, we\'ll continue our non-violent struggle to reach Gush Katif," he added.
Regarding Yesha\'s concerns that a group of activists would split off from main group and try to march to Gush Katif, Wallerstein said, "We have no problem with that strategy. We just hope that those who would split off won\'t create provocations."
Late Monday night, Yesha leaders agreed to shorten the Sderot rallyto three hours, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. From Sderot, activists would continue on to Ofakim, where the council planned to make its headquarters, but would go no further towards the Gaza Strip which has been declared a closed military zone.
Southern District police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev and OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel met with Yesha Council Chairman Benzi Lieberman late Monday night to hammer out the accord.
Lt.-Cmdr. Amichai Shai, head of International Crimes Unit and of hasbara for police during the disengagement, said that if 12,000 people showed up at the rally in Sderot but maintained order and demonstrated peacefully, police would take no action to disperse the crowd. "It is important to protect the freedom of speech and the right to protest, as long as things are done in an orderly fashion."
Some protestors were already camping out in Sderot\'s stadium overnight Monday in preparation for the rally.
Security forces deployed 15,000 police and soldiers in preparation for the planned event.
In contrast to what happened at Kfar Maimon, police in Sderot were gearing up for the possibility that violent clashes could erupt following the rally, Shai said.
Meanwhile, disregarding the agreement, an online group of anti-disengagement activists called Mateh Hameshutaf sent out a mass e-mail instructing rally participants to head toward Gush Katif instead of Ofakim.
"It\'s important to go directly to Gush Katif, and for those of us who are gathering in Sderot, we should march there by foot and not continue to Ofakim," the letter stated.
The writer, Shosh Shiloh from Kedumim, explained that it was more difficult to reach Gush Katif from Ofakim, since the area in which the activists were planning to camp overnight was fenced in. Sderot, however, is open and closer to the Gaza border.
Shai spoke about intelligence reports claiming demonstrators would bypass the Ofakim part of the rally and just head into Gush Katif: "Any march to the west – they will hit a brick wall of security forces. If they break the agreement, we will react accordingly."
Shai emphasized, "There is no way we will allow anyone to head towards Gush Katif."
On Tuesday Yesha handed out instruction leaflets, written by a lawyer, on how to deal with police during demonstrations. The papers were being given to people at meeting points before they headed south to Sderot.
The leaflets included rules, such as one that states that policemen should have their ID tags visible on their shirts. They also stated that police have no right to confiscate video equipment.
The pages also advise that police are only allowed to use reasonable force, and gives addresses to which the use of excessive force can be reported.
|Tens of Thousands Stream to Sderot For Anti-Expulsion Rally |
21:53 Aug 02, \'05 / 26 Tammuz 5765
By Ezra HaLevi
| ||Tens of thousands have reached the Negev town of Sderot despite police attempts to limit the number of participants in the anti-expulsion rally. Protesters intend to march to Gush Katif Wednesday. |
|Major traffic delays are reported in Kiryat Malachi, Ashdod and many other southern district municipalities as thousands of anti-Disengagement protestors continue making their way to the rally. Police report that there are five-mile-long traffic jams in all directions surrounding the town of Sderot. Thousands of people were also seen walking toward the western Negev town on the shoulders of the roads.|
Israel National Radio\'s Eli Stutz reports that 40,000 people have arrived in Sderot. "There is a gigantic grassy field in front of a large stage where pop/folk music legend Ariel Zilber is performing," Stutz reported at 8:40 PM. "There is a big sign in the front of the city saying, \'Our Town is Your Town.\' All these towns bordering Gaza are represented here - they know full well that the rockets that are now hitting them will multiply following a pullout."
The father of Ella Abukasis, the teenage girl who was killed by a Kassam rocket that hit her home in Sderot, addressed the crowd, angrily pointing a finger at the government.
"Why are there 30,000 soldiers and police here today to make sure good Jews don\'t walk to Gush Katif?" Abukasis boomed. "Where were they when my daughter was killed? Where are they when murderers fire rockets at us daily?"
MK Ayoub Kara (Likud), a Druze member of the Knesset, arrived in Sderot to participate in the rally, as well. He told Arutz-7: "I came here to identify with the protesters and to help preserve Israeli democracy, which is in grave danger."
"The checkpoints, and demands that citizens show their identity cards in order to pass, remind me of darker days this nation has faced," Kara said. "This Prime Minister uses the police and military so aggressively in order to enforce his personal doctrine. I believe, though, that justice and faith will win by way of this public gathered here."
Following the Sderot event, participants plan to continue on toward Ofakim where they will spend the night. Many demonstrators told Arutz-7 that on their way into town they received invitations from residents, some yelled from balconies, to spend the night at their homes. An estimated 500 Sderot families have opened their homes, in this way. Other Sderot residents cooked large pots of food earlier in the day, to have food ready to offer the protestors.
|Protester arriving in Sderot. Sign reads: "The Land is My Land"|
The Yesha Council has announced that from Ofakim, protesters will march to Gush Katif on Wednesday.
Over 6,000 IDF soldiers were sent to Ofakim Tuesday to strengthen the force already present, in a bid to ensure that anti-Disengagement activists do not succeed in entering Gush Katif.
Defense Minister Sha\'ul Mofaz had declared Monday that the rally would not be permitted to take place. On Tuesday, following 24 hours of negotiations between the police and the Yesha Council, an agreement was reached enabling the rally to take place. Shortly afterward, however, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra declared that only 5,000 protesters would be allowed to attend the Sderot rally.
Yesha Council head Bentzy Lieberman told Arutz-7 that he is certain the difficulties faced by organizers were the direct doing of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "The entire time, both police and IDF officials made it clear to us that from their perspective, democracy dictated that we be authorized to carry out the rally."
Lieberman said the only limitation agreed to by the Yesha Council was that the Sderot rally would conclude at 9:30 PM, and that from there, protesters would be transported by car and bus to Ofakim.
"From Ofakim, we will continue to join our heroic brethren in Gush Katif," Lieberman later bellowed from the rally\'s podium. "We are not going home!"