GANEI TAL, Gaza – If the Gaza Strip is not reopened within 24 hours, tens of thousands of activists will flood to the area to protest today’s decision to declare Gaza a closed military zone, a settler group decided tonight.

“If [the army] doesn’t open the roads to Gush Katif (the main group of Jewish communities in Gaza) before Sabbath, we’ll direct supporters to flood the entire area,” a leader of the Yesha settlers council told WND. He said the ultimatum will be delivered tonight to the “top brass” of the Israeli Defense Forces.

The Yesha council held an emergency session with Gush Katif leaders in the Jewish Gaza town of Neve Dekalim to decide on an official response to the military closure.

Israel’s Defense Ministry this morning announced it was immediately imposing a closure on the Gaza Strip. The army said the closure was in response to recent “provocations by right-wing extremists,” and was not part of any campaign to start the Aug. 15 Gaza evacuation early.

Israeli soldiers, police commando units and border guards today stormed the Palm Beach Hotel – a seafront building alongside Gush Katif – and forcibly evicted its occupants. Anti-withdrawal activists, including a few Israel accuses of inciting violence, had taken up residence in the hotel in recent months.

Yesha leaders said they are skeptical about the IDF claims restrictions are temporary.

“The hotel has been evacuated. So there is no reason to keep Gaza closed. The residents deserve to live a normal life,” the Yesha leader said. “If it’s not opened, there will be a lot of balagan (mayhem).”

The leader said his council would reject any proposal by the IDF that restricted Jewish visitors from Gush Katif.

According to an Israeli television report, the IDF is considering reopening the Gaza Strip in the next few days while maintaining checkpoints that would stop any suspected protester from entering.

“No good. They have 24 hours to either completely open the area, or we will respond accordingly,” the Yesha leader said.

The Yesha settlers council, along with other grass-roots anti-withdrawal organizations, yesterday held protests that blocked streets throughout Israel, shutting down parts of the country for several hours.

According to several senior activist sources in Jerusalem, protesters have been mobilizing and are preparing for a possible campaign.

“Beeper messages were sent to different people to warn them they might need to bring out people and head to Gush Kattif,” said a source.

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