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Thousands Of Israelis Protest Occupation, Assassinations

NationalTEL AVIV, September 21 - Thousands of Israelis took to the streets late Saturday, September 20, protesting the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, including the assassinations of Palestinian activists, demanding withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories.

The protestors marched from central Rabin Square , where former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist on November 4, 1995 for his peacemaking efforts, to the defense ministry building, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

According to the Israeli Peace Now movement, the pacifist group which organized the march, the protestors numbered more than 10,000.

All of the speakers called for dismantling the settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and for the resignation of Sharon ís government, said the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

Many carried placards demanding the Israeli army withdraw from the territories to \"save\" Israel , while others were draped in Israeli flags, an AFP correspondent said.

They also chanted slogans against the \"liquidations\" of Palestinian activists by Israeli forces, as well as against bloody anti-Israeli Palestinian attacks.

\"It\'s the first time in several months that Peace Now has organized a demonstration of this size,\" the group\'s spokesman, Yariv Oppenheimer, told AFP.

He said the movement wanted to show that it was defending Israel \'s best interests in pursuing peace and ending the decades-long occupations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip which has resulted in the current Palestinian Intifada.

\'Street Campaign\'

Quoting march organizers, Haaretz said that the rally marked the opening of a \"street campaign\" that will be conducted over the next few months by Peace Now.

Among the speakers were Labor Party Secretary-General Ophir Pines-Paz, Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan and former Labor Member of Knesset Yael Dayan.

Dayan emphasized the economic cost of the settlements, saying that the government was still pumping huge amounts of money into them, while other Israelis were going hungry, the daily said.

He said that each year, 5,000 more Israeli children slip below the poverty line.

Former MK and Oslo architect Yossi Beilin was also present, although he did not address the demonstrators.

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