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Rabbis to Fast in Protest of Pullout

Settler rabbis on Sunday declared a day of fasting to protest their government's plan to remove all 21 settlements from Gaza (search) and four from the West Bank in the summer.

The rabbis issued an edict they said obligates all religious Zionists, calling for a dawn-to-dusk fast on March 17 to "break the horrible decree" of the pullout.

The pullout plan has been approved by both the Israeli Cabinet and parliament, despite vocal opposition from the settlers and their backers. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search), once a main advocate of expanding settlements, changed course when he put forward his pullout plan, insisting that it would help Israel maintain control of the main settlement blocs in the West Bank (search).

Security officials have predicted violent resistance by extremists among the settlers, and some rabbis have issued decrees declaring that the pullout is a violation of Jewish law.