Yamit, Israeli-occupied Sinai — While the controversy rages over Egyptian President Mubarak's refusal to visit Jerusalem, Israel has been wrestling with another problem: how to carry out its Camp David commitment to withdraw from Sinai by April 25.
Militant settlers in the Sinai town of Yamit have been secretly planning to bring in thousands of supporters early this week to resist withdrawal. The diehards have said they will forcibly resist any attempt to evacuate the region and have spoken of bringing in as many as 100,000 supporters which, they say, would make evacuation physically impossible.
Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon surprised the militant settlers however , by sealing off the town Feb. 26 while militants were in their homes preparing for the Sabbath.
The move had not been expected to occur until much closer to the April 25 deadline.
The first roadblocks hastily thrown up Feb. 26 were overrun by militants who came out of Yamit and opened a passage for scores of vehicles containing supporters.
Within a few hours, however, the Army brought up heavy reinforcements and blocked the roads with steel bars, antivehicle nails, and barbed-wire concertinas. Equipment to disperse demonstrations, including fire trucks, was posted nearby. Naval aircraft patrolled offshore to prevent militants from reaching Yamit by sea.
Militant leaders say the roadblocks will not stop them. ''Our people will hike 50 miles through the desert with backpacks if they have to,'' one militant said.