Israel Shuts Gaza - To Jews

An Israeli soldier stands guard after the area was declared a military zone, as Jewish settler residents of the Palm Beach Hotel look on outside the building, also known by extremists as "Fortress by the Sea," near the settlement of Neve Dekalim, in the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, June 30, 2005.
The Israeli military on Thursday isolated the Gaza Strip, declaring it a "closed military zone" to prevent Jewish extremists from going in after a series of violent incidents in recent days.

Tension has been rising with Israel's planned pullout from Gaza less than two months away, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. Only residents of Gaza are now allowed to enter and leave the area, in an attempt to prevent Jewish militants from entering Gaza to resist the withdrawal. The settlers say the government has imprisoned them, before expelling them.

Also Thursday, a group of about 50 Gaza pullout opponents briefly blocked a main Jerusalem thoroughfare, police said. The attempt came a day after hundreds of protesters shut down main thoroughfares throughout Israel by lying down on the roads. On Wednesday, police pushed, shoved and dragged protesters out of the road and used a water cannon to disperse the crowds.

Jewish extremists on Wednesday also clashed with both Israeli security forces and Palestinian civilians, severely wounding a Palestinian. Settlers and soldiers also clashed over the weekend.

"In the past day there has been another serious escalation of extremist activity," an army statement said. "There is intelligence information that more extremist groups are moving toward the Gaza Strip with the intention of strengthening their friends and to escalate the provocative acts."

The army sealed the Jewish settlements, preventing residents from traveling between the towns.

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers Thursday raided a Gaza Strip hotel to remove about 150 Gaza pullout opponents holed up inside.

About 10 busloads of soldiers and paramilitary police went room-to-room to remove the Jewish extremists, who had been blockaded inside for several weeks. They had stockpiled food and surrounded the hotel with barbed-wire fences.

Residents protested against the closure of the Gaza Strip.