Police arrested 40 demonstrators countrywide, Israeli media reported on Monday, and 10 policemen were lightly injured in clashes.

Meanwhile in Gaza, an estimated 15,000 people gathered at the Gush Katif settlement block, which is slated to be part of the withdrawal plan that will see Israeli occupation forces evacuate all illegal settlements and soldiers in Gaza.

They protested under the slogan, "let the people decide", referring to calls by withdrawal opponents to hold a nationwide referendum on the pullout.

Support for pullout

Polls show a majority of Israelis support the Gaza pullout, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has repeatedly ruled out the referendum idea, saying it would cause an unnecessary delay to implementing the withdrawal.

Police attempts to disperse the
crowds were met with violence

About 100 policemen attempted to disperse the crowds and clear traffic in Jerusalem, but met with violent resistance from the protesters.

In another incident, demonstrators pelted a police car with stones, injuring the driver.

Dozens of right-wing activists stood in the middle of a major highway near Tel Aviv, burning tyres and preventing traffic from moving.

One of the organisers of the protests was quoted as saying the disturbances were "just the beginning" of what would happen once the withdrawal plan gathered momentum.

"We plan to paralyse the country," the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying. "We will do all we can to prevent this plan from proceeding."