On the way to Sderot
On the way to SderotIsrael News Photo: (file)

Sderot police arrested more than a dozen activists on Sunday morning, including children, just hours before a protest march was scheduled to step off from the Gaza Belt city of Sderot, about a kilometer from the security barrier.   

Attorney Ariel Groner, who represents several of the arrested activists, slammed the action, saying, "You're not allowed to arrest someone for their thoughts." He added that the police were advised to release a number of the would-be demonstrators with a restraining order instead, but said it was unlikely they would comply.

Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss and Ichud Leumi (National Union) MKs Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz and Michael Ben-Ari were among those who had planned to participate.

The marchers planned to head at 12:00 noon for the former Jewish region of Gaza, Gush Katif, and begin to rebuild the communities in response to what the activists are calling the "abandonment of the south."

Thirteen organizers of the event were rounded up from Sderot, Kiryat Arba and Shevut Rachel in what police said were "legal preventive arrests" despite the fact that no one had committed any crime. Last week police had visited the organizers in an attempt to dissuade them from carrying on with the march.

Would-be marchers told the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot they intended to "re-establish the Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip."

Sderot Mayor David Buskila, who was not pleased by the prospect of a group of marchers descending on his town, said he had spoken with his police chief about the impending event.

"He said they had asked the organizers why they had not requested a permit, and the rightists answered that they didn't want a permit," Buskila said. "In my opinion, this is inconsiderate of city residents who want peace and quiet during the holiday," he said.

Organizer and rights activist Itamar Ben-Gvir confirmed Buskila's claim. "I don't think you need a permit in order to travel in Israel. We're not members of the Yesha (Judea, Samaria, Gaza -ed.) Council, who ask for permits in order to be fenced in like they are in Kfar Maimon. That's why we did not ask for a permit," Ben-Gvir explained. The activist asked regional police to free those who were arrested and threatened court action if they remained incarcerated.

"I don't remember any times in which leftists were arrested prior to demonstrations -- such as those in Bil'in or in other places -- as a preventive measure," he commented. "When it comes to us, police take steps reminiscent of foul regimes."