Massive anti-evacuation rally in Sderot, Gaza (Photo: WND)
SDEROT, Gaza – Hamas tonight fired a rocket in the direction of an anti-Gaza withdrawal rally that attracted tens of thousands of supporters who are planning to march momentarily toward Gaza’s Jewish communities.
About 50,000 Israelis congregated here in Sderot, a Negev town 12 miles south of Gaza’s Gush Katif slate of Jewish communities, to protest the Aug. 17 evacuation and attempt to march toward the Katif entrance.
An estimated 20,000 more protesters reportedly are battling massive traffic jams on roads leading into the area.
Speakers at the rally included Katif spokesmen, Knesset members, former Soviet dissident and Israeli minister Nathan Sharansky, and several prominent rabbis.
As the speeches were ending, Hamas fired a Qassam rocket in the direction of the Sderot rally, but it landed a few kilometers south and killed a Palestinian.
Military sources told WND the Israeli Defense Forces are on high alert for more possible rockets aimed at the protesters. The IDF deployed drone aircraft to search for more rocket launchers in Gaza City, Khan Yunis and northern Gaza.
Protesters gather in Sderot, Gaza (Photo: WND)
Tonight’s rally was deemed legal after Yesha struck a last-minute agreement with police declaring they would only march from Sderot to Ofakim, which is about five miles south of Gaza. Most at the rally brought sleeping bags and supplies and intend on marching to Ofakim in the next hour.
About 1,000 police are directing marchers, while 15,000 security personnel have set up about a dozen large road blocks on the way to Gush Katif.
Yesha leaders told WND marchers would sleep overnight in Ofikim and will continue toward Katif some time tomorrow. Police officials said they would use “all means necessary” to block marchers from reaching Gaza. Yesha leaders hope to flood Gaza’s Jewish communities with tens of thousands of Israelis to halt the withdrawal.
“Tomorrow evening, we will continue our march to Gush Katif in a determined but non-violent fashion,” protest organizer Tziki Bar-Chai told reporters. “Our goal is to stop the expulsion plan by way of marching with our heroic friends in Sderot and Gush Katif.”
Speaking at tonight’s rally, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal said the Gaza evacuation will be stopped.
“The evacuation was and will be a bad plan for the nation of Israel, but we will not lift a finger, not on a policeman and not on a soldier,” he said.
Arab Druze Knesset Member Ayoob Kara proclaimed to the crowd, “If we remain orange, we’ll vanquish the Red Army. This is a cynical use of the military and police.”
Orange has become the color theme of the anti-withdrawal campaign, signifying Katif’s many citrus groves.
A debate ensued between the police and Yesha leaders after senior police spokesmen announced they estimated tonight’s rally numbers at about 8,000.
Yesha head Benzi Lieberman pulled aside several journalists and asked them to guess at the crowd numbers. A correspondent for a major Israeli daily estimated 50,000. A cameraman said 40,000. A reporter from the U.S. figured 60,000 were present.
“Tens of thousands more are on their way,” said Lieberman to the media.
“I don’t want to read the newspapers tomorrow and see the absurd police lie about 8,000.”
At the previous Yesha rally and march, most media reports cited the police crowd estimate of 10,000, even though protesters completely filled a dirt field police originally estimated could hold some 40,000 people. An adjacent field that could hold about 30,000 was nearly filled.
A Yesha leader previously explained the importance of tonight’s march.
“If large numbers reach Gaza and we get inside, the evacuation will not be able to happen, Sharon’s government will fall, and Israel is going to have new elections.”
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 and the likely creation of a Hamas-run terror state many believe will follow. Read more about “ISRAEL BETRAYED?”