Police Block Right-wing March From Sderot to Gaza

About 1,000 police officers surrounded Sderot yesterday to prevent right-wing demonstrators from marching from the southern city toward the former Gaza Strip settlement block of Gush Katif.

Security forces poured into the area in the early morning hours, anticipating 600 people would participate in the unauthorized rally.

"Nobody asked our permission," police officer David Biton said.

"It was not coordinated with authorities. It could have disturbed the public, and that's something we wouldn't let happen."

"Not everyone in search of something to do should come to Sderot," Sderot Mayor David Buskila said.

"Sderot residents are enjoying the holiday, and anyone who planned to demonstrate here should have gotten the proper authorizations," he added.

Police eventually reached an understanding with the rally organizers: The gathering was allowed to take place, but participants would not march toward Gaza.

"We spoke to police and got a license," MK Ya'akov Katz (National Union) said. "We are acting in accordance with police guidelines and are not breaking the agreements. We'll conclude this event and leave."

Katz claimed he did not know when he arrived that the protest was unauthorized.

After the protest ended, some young activists disregarded organizers' instructions and began marching on Route 34 toward the former settlement block. Police blocked them, and some scuffles broke out.

"Unfortunately this government acts as though it isn't a Jewish government," said Rabbi Shaul Halfon, a former resident of Gush Katif.

"Where were police during the [sectarian] violence in Peki'in? If we even laid a finger on a police officer, they would immediately jump us and arrest us."

He added: "This land is our land, including the Gaza Strip."