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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 16:22 GMT
Israel to curb Gaza media access
Israeli soldiers patrol a settlement in the Gaza Strip
The army's role will change abruptly from protection to eviction
The Israeli army is planning stiff curbs on media access to the Gaza Strip in the run-up to the planned removal of thousands of Jewish settlers in July.

Settlements will be declared closed military zones and journalists must enter them under military escort.

They will be free to move within each settlement but not from one to another.

The army denies intending to suppress news of settler protests against the pullout, but one correspondent has called the restrictions "unreasonable".

"I want free mobility in the field," an Israeli commentator is quoted as saying in Haaretz newspaper.

"They can keep tabs on who goes in, but they can't dictate to us where we go," says the commentator, Alon Ben-David of Channel 10 television.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza plan has faced bitter opposition from settlers and their supporters, who are reportedly planning a range of protest actions to thwart the pullout.

Embedded

Israel plans to withdraw from Gaza all 8,000 Jewish settlers and the military units that protect them over four weeks beginning on 20 July.

As the date approaches, the army says it will declare settlements and the land around them closed military zones.

Israeli settler being evicted from an unauthorised outpost in the West Bank
Settler resistance may become a big part of the Gaza story
The only people allowed in will be journalists embedded with the Israeli military and the settlers themselves.

Israeli officials will set up two media centres close to the Palestinian territory to regulate media access.

Brig Gen Yaron is quoted as saying the restrictions are being prepared because an unprecedented number of foreign journalists is expected to try to cover the withdrawal.

"The area of each settlement is too small to accommodate all the representatives of the media," she is quoted as saying by Haaretz.

Passions

Brig Gen Yaron appears keen to scotch any suggestions that restrictions are meant to stop the media coverage of possible clashes between Israeli troops and Jewish settlers.

"Wherever there are cameras, passions are ignited," she is quoted as saying.

"This is not a reason to prevent coverage, but we want them to cover [the events] without stirring up passions."

Access for Israeli journalists will be a priority, she said. Those left behind at the media centre will receive briefings and watch reports on TV relayed by the army.

Israel has occupied Gaza and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, since 1967.

After the planned disengagement in Gaza, Israeli forces will continue to control Gaza's external borders, coastline and airspace.




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