KFAR MEIMON, Israel — Tens of thousands of protest marchers hoping to reach Gaza this week are currently under siege by a massive force of police officers and soldiers, while leaders of the protest are vowing to break through the blockade tonight.
Marchers camping out in Kfar Meimon (WND photo)
The protest aims to halt next month’s evacuation of Jewish communities from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
Tens of thousands last night marched to an overnight rest stop on their way to Gaza after breaching a barrier of thousands of security forces and running across thorny fields.
Earlier yesterday, protesters streamed into Nativot, a town about 20 miles south of Gaza, holding a massive rally that completely filled a dirt field police estimate could hold some 40,000 people. An adjacent field that could hold about 30,000 was nearly filled, and a line of protesters could be seen walking to the rally from a quarter-mile away.
After the rally ended, the majority of those assembled marched on foot down Highway 25, which leads in the direction of Gush Katif, the main slate of Gaza’s Jewish communities.
After breaking through a large human chain of officers and soldiers last night, the protesters marched to Kfar Meimon, a small farm community about 15 miles south of the entrance to the Jewish communities in Gaza. The protesters, many of whom brought sleeping bags, sheets and pillows, slept in grassy fields.
Soldiers blockade marchers in Kfar Meimon (WND photo)
This morning, the massive group found themselves completely surrounded by security forces pledging to halt the march. Police entered Kfar Meimon and announced on loudspeakers buses had been brought in to take home protesters wishing to leave. No one budged.
Instead, about two thousand more protesters made it past heavy roadblocks, many traveling by foot, and joined the besieged masses, who pledged to march on.
Police told the media they estimate the crowd to be 20,000, but march leaders say it is closer to 80,000. Indeed, a tour of Kfar Maimon puts the numbers closer to the leaders’ estimates.
This afternoon, rallies were held at which anti-withdrawal leaders spoke. Many groups studied the Torah and broke into hundreds of quorums to recite morning and afternoon prayers. The mood was festive. Some protesters sand songs and danced. Kids played on neighborhood playgrounds.
There were reports police were denying entry to the area of food or water trucks, but dozens of large water tanks were indeed situated inside and protesters were provided with ample food.
Many Meimon residents gave out fruits and vegetables.
About 15,000 officers and soldiers are still barricading the marchers into Kfar Meimon. Units have formed three circles around the western exit to the community, the only exit large enough to fit the crowds through.
Leaders of the Yesha settlers council, which organized the march, have told protesters they may spend the night in Kfar Meimon, but warned marchers should be ready at a moments notice to try to breach the blockades.
If they break through, the goal tonight is to reach the Re’im rest area, a camping site 10 miles south of Gaza.
A Yesha official addressing the crowd this evening said, “We will not announce our specific plans. It could be an hour from now, or two hours, or 18, or 24, but we will get to Kisufim (the main checkpoint into Jewish Gaza). The main thing is that this tremendous crowd of people is here, showing such great self-sacrifice. … Without violence, we will get there.”
Senior Yesha sources told WND the crowd will be instructed to burst through police forces sometime tonight.
Miriam Jacobs, a Jerusalem resident participating in the march, said, “Sharon wouldn’t allow the country to hold a referendum to see if we support the Gaza evacuation. Well, right now we are holding our own referendum, and the world is hearing all of us here.”