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OPT: Israeli forces tighten Gaza closure to non-residents

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JERUSALEM, Jul 26, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) - The Israeli forces are tightening closure of the Gaza Strip to non-resident Israelis, according to an order announced Tuesday by the forces' Southern Command Dan Harel.
In accordance with the new order, only residents from the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif and their immediate family members are permitted to cross into Gaza.

The command said because Israelis were remaining inside Gaza even after their entry permits had expired, there must be a change in policy.

Harel noted that some 2,000 disengagement opponents had illegally entered Gush Katif and some of them remained in the area following the expiration of their entry permits and others infiltrated from Israel.

This group joined the actual 8,000 legal residents of the Gaza settlements, increasing their number by some 25 percent.

At this stage, police do not intend to conduct searches for those remaining illegally in the settlements. However, such individuals who are arrested during illegal protest against the pullout will be expelled from Gaza.

Before Tuesday's order, there were no limitations placed on the public's entry into the strip. Only those who appeared on a list prepared by the police and the Shin Bet domestic security service were denied entry.

The upcoming Israeli pullout from the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in northern West Bank starting in mid-August has been protested by opponents of the plan and extreme ultranationalists.

The opponents view the pullout plan as a betrayal to their biblical rights to the lands Israel captured during the 1967 Middle East War.