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Israel on Friday banned its citizens from moving into Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent more opponents of a planned pullout this summer from flocking to the area as new settlers.
The order, "prohibiting the relocation of Israeli citizens into the Gaza Strip," was issued by the military following media reports that hundreds of people recently moved into some of the 21 settlements and hundreds more were set to do so.
"The decree was signed in accordance with the decision made by the political echelon and part of the preparations to implement the government decision to carry out the disengagement plan," the army said in a statement.
Some 8,500 settlers live in the Gaza Strip and their leaders have been waging a public campaign against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to remove them from occupied land he said Israel had no chance of keeping in a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Newspapers said more than 500 opponents of the pullout had already changed their residence, listed on government-issued identification cards all Israelis must carry by law, to the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in Gaza.