Tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Gaza's &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2001/05/07/4830.html ' target=_blank>Jewish settlements on Wednesday against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to abandon the strip this summer after 38 years of occupation. At least 40,000 sympathizers joined the show of defiance after exhausting political avenues for stopping Israel's first removal of settlements from land where Palestinians seek a state, witnesses said.
Settlers said there were 80,000 demonstrators, still well short of the 100,000 they had hoped for.
Orange balloons and flags fluttered from lampposts in the spring sunshine as settlers and their supporters marked what could be their last Passover holiday on land that many of them see as a biblical birthright, tells Reuters.
Settler leaders vowed to use all non-violent means to prevent the withdrawal -- reinforcing the settlement blocs with their supporters and possibly bringing Israel to a halt.
But the atmosphere on the day was of carnival not confrontation.
"We will be here forever," said one banner, bright orange in the color of the local authority's flag that has become a symbol of the wider protest.