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GANEI TAL, Gaza – Israel this morning said it completely lifted the closure it imposed on the Gaza Strip yesterday afternoon, but military sources told WND the army will continue to ban anti-withdrawal activists it fears may take up residence in the area.

Israel’s Defense Ministry yesterday declared the Gaza Strip a closed military zone, explaining 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.

Hours later, Israeli soldiers, police commando units and border guards 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.

As WND reported, late last night the Yesha settlers council and leaders of Gaza’s Jewish communities issued an ultimatum to the Israel Defense Forces, warning if the Gaza Strip was not reopened by sundown Friday it would flood the area with tens of thousands of activists.

Yesha this week held protests that blocked streets throughout Israel, shutting down parts of the country for several hours. The protests demonstrated the group is capable of mobilizing large numbers of supporters.

Throughout the night, activist leaders in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv prepared for possible protests today at major Gaza checkpoints.

“Beeper messages were sent to different people to warn them they might need to bring out people and head to Gush Kattif,” a senior activist told WND late last night.

Early this morning, the IDF announced it reopened the Gaza Strip.

“The lifting of this order is possible following the completion of the mission of taking over and the evacuation of the hotel in Neve Dekalim, as well as the radical groups inside it,” the army said in a statement.

But the IDF ordered a limit on the number of goods and belongings that could be brought into the area, fearing large numbers of activists are planning to move to Gaza to protest the Aug. 15 evacuation. It explained the ban on goods would make it difficult for protesters to sustain themselves for long periods of time.

Military sources told WND the army, aside from banning goods, is planning to place at the Kissufim Crossing, the manned junction leading into Jewish Gaza, a “political checkpoint” that would screen visitors to the area and turn away possible anti-withdrawal activists.

“The opening of Gaza is not going to be a complete one. Some activists who we suspect are coming to cause trouble will not be allowed in,” said one senior military source in Gaza.

Yesha had announced last night it would not accept a ban on any Jewish visitors to the area.

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

In what many are calling a dress rehearsal for this summer’s scheduled evacuation of Jewish communities here, some 2,000 soldiers and policemen yesterday stormed the Palm Beach Hotel, going room-to-room to chase out the residents, many of whom scurried in different directions attempting to elude capture. Israelis watched live on television as soldiers burst down doors and dragged out hotel residents who were loaded kicking and screaming onto waiting police buses.

The entire operation lasted only two hours. Soldiers had expected the hotel residents to put up fierce resistance. There were no reports of casualties.

Many of the hotel’s occupants were not Gaza residents but protesters from other Israeli towns who flocked to the hotel in solidarity with Gush Katif residents.

Some occupants were involved in violent confrontations with Palestinians the past few days. Seven hotel residents were arrested yesterday in a rock-throwing incident with local Arabs, although according to the Jewish activists, the Palestinians threw rocks first.

“The Jewish communities in Gush Katif have nothing to do with the hotel residents. They are up to no good. We’re not supporting their actions,” Katif spokeswoman Debbie Rosen told WND.

Several Jewish towns – including Neve Dekalim, the largest Gaza Jewish community – were placed under complete lock down, with residents barred from leaving even to drive to a neighboring community.

In the midst of all the mayhem, Palestinian terrorists fired rockets and shells at Gush Katif communities, highlighting fears Hamas or Islamic Jihad will fire on residents during this summer’s withdrawal.

Hamas said in a statement that “a Qassam rocket was fired and exploded inside the Jewish settlement of Naveh Dekalim.”

Security officials in Gaza told WND eight mortar shells or rockets were fired at communities, causing damage to one house but no injuries.

Editor’s note: “ISRAEL BETRAYED?” – the July issue of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine – is devoted entirely to an in-depth exploration of the controversial forced removal of thousands of Jewish residents from Gaza planned for August, and the likely creation of a Hamas-run terror state many believe will follow. Read more about “ISRAEL BETRAYED?”

Related stories:

Protesters to flood Gaza if closure not rescinded

Israeli commandos storm Gaza hotel

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