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Israeli army seals off Gaza strip

2005-06-30 06:57:00

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Israeli army seals off Gaza strip
Last Updated Thu, 30 Jun 2005 08:53:25 EDT
CBC News

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers have stormed a hotel in the Gaza Strip in order to remove 150 Jewish extremists, who had barricaded themselves inside for several weeks.

The ultra-nationalists had vowed to make the derelict Palm Beach Hotel their base of operations to protest Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza.
An opponent of Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank is detained by police. (AP photo)

The move comes as the Israeli military sealed off the Gaza Strip to keep out Jewish extremists after violent clashes in the region in recent days.

"There is intelligence information that more extremist groups are moving toward the Gaza Strip with the intention of strengthening their friends and to escalate the provocative acts," said the army in a statement.

The settlement of Gush Katif in the Gaza has been fortified in recent days with hundreds of ultra-nationalist settlers bused in by organizers.

Jewish militants fought Israeli forces and Palestinians on Wednesday. They also scrapped with Israeli soldiers over the weekend ahead of the country's official withdrawal from all Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

* FROM JUNE 29, 2005: Settlers, ultra-nationalists oppose Israel's withdrawl plan

During Wednesday's scuffle, a group of Jewish youths were caught on video beating a Palestinian boy unconscious. The incident sparked widespread outrage across Israel with some questioning why the youths weren't arrested on the scene. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said police were investigating what he called a "lynching."

"There is no connection between Judaism and those who carried out this," said Shaul Yahalom, a politician from the National Religious Party.
An arrested and handcuffed demonstrator makes a victory sign from inside an Israeli police bus. (AP photo)

Israel's disengagement from the West Bank and Gaza is slated for mid-August. In the meantime, the army has also isolated the settlements to stop residents from travelling between the colonies.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Haaretz newspaper that he is cracking down on the extremists.

"This is an act of savagery, vulgarity and irresponsibility ... every measure must be taken to end this rampaging."

Disgruntled settlers also tried to tie up traffic throughout Israel, blocking several major intersections, spilling oil and nails on a highway.

Copyright ©2005 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - All Rights Reserved

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