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Protesters renew march against Israeli pullout

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SDEROT, Israel (CNN) -- Demonstrators gathered Tuesday near the Gaza border for a protest march against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw all Jewish settlements from Gaza.

Israeli authorities said they are allowing the march after reaching agreement with organizers that protesters won't try to enter Gaza to join Jewish settlers at Gush Katif.

Police and Israeli soldiers are on hand to guard the marchers and prevent them from going into Gaza.

Organizers said they expect several thousand demonstrators to take part, but a few hundred had gathered by midday Tuesday.

Settlers are resisting the withdrawal, which is scheduled to begin August 15.

Sharon vowed Monday that his plan to withdraw Israeli troops and about 9,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza and parts of the West Bank will go ahead as planned.

More than half of the eligible residents have filed applications for resettlement assistance, he said.

"I appeal to those who still have not: We are in the last minute. You must apply now and not delay," Sharon said. "Do not be led to believe that the disengagement will not be implemented. The disengagement will be implemented."

Last month, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, rejected a bill by a 69-41 vote that would have delayed the pullout for three months.

Israeli government officials have said they hope the withdrawal will change the political landscape of the Middle East, opening the way for resumption of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Organizers said the goal of the march is to tie up thousands of Israeli police and soldiers who otherwise would be training to handle the disengagement.

Demonstrators plan to march south from Sderot, a frequent target of Palestinian militants in northern Gaza, to a site eight miles south.

A July 18 protest attracted about 10,000 marchers at the southern Israeli farm community of Kfar Maymon. Marchers planned to cross into Gaza at Kissufim Crossing but gave up after three days when about 20,000 Israeli soldiers and troops blocked them. (Full story)

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