The move, which infuriated settlers' leaders, came as the army also sealed Gaza and the West Bank to Palestinians entering and leaving in response to the Islamic Jihad suicide bomb attack that killed four people in Netanya on Tuesday. A Palestinian policeman was killed as Israeli troops moved into Tulkarem and made at least five arrests.
In a separate development, a British water engineer was released by Palestinian kidnappers 24 hours after being seized with an Austrian colleague in a relatively upmarket quarter of Gaza City in a further sign of continuing and severe law and order problems ahead of Israel's disengagement from the strip.
Dan Harel, head of the army's southern command, said the closure order, which comes five days ahead of a planned mass march to the main Gush Katif settlement block, was issued after unceasing flow of activists had entered it with the aim of preventing disengagement. But the Yesha Council, representing settlers, declared: "This is the first time in history that a Jewish prime minister blockades Jewish communities and declares a part of Israel Jews-free"
Western sources suggested that the kidnapped men, Michael Rabicano, the Briton, and Peter Hammer had been abducted outside their home by a powerful Gaza family seeking the release from Palestinian detention of several of its members.Reuse content