The pro-Hamas Popular Committee Against the Siege, which is organising Monday's protest, said it expected between 40,000 and 50,000 women to take part in the protest throughout the day.
 
It is hoped that the chain will stretch the length of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

 

Jamal al-Khudary, a Palestinian legislator heading the group, said they had no intention of approaching the border fence "either in the north or the south".

 

"We hope all the participants will abide by the instructions and we will try to prevent any violations," he said.

 

The group said that Hamas-controlled schools across Gaza would get time off to allow students to take part in the protest.

 

Israeli warning

 

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, and Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, said Israel will defend its territory and "stop any infiltration attempt into its sovereign borders".

 

Israeli forces are manning Gaza's border
crossings amid the protests
"Hamas is behind activities that place the civilian population on the front lines," they said in a rare joint statement.

 

"Israel is acting to prevent an escalation but makes it clear that if it does happen the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Hamas."

 

An Israeli security source said the army was preparing for "all scenarios", and Israeli television has reported artillery reinforcements along the frontier.

 

"... we are absolutely unwilling to countenance a situation where the fence is breached like it was at Rafah," the source said.

 

Hamas fighters blew open Gaza's southern Rafah border wall with Egypt last month.

 

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians crossed over to buy food and fuel in short supply because of a blockade.

 

Israel said it imposed the blockade because of cross-border rocket attacks by Hamas fighters.

 

Palestinians killed

 

Israeli forces have launched several
ground raids into Gaza [AFP]
 
The Israeli military killed at least four Palestinians in separate air strikes on the Gaza Strip earlier on Monday.
 
Hamas and medical officials said three of the people killed were Hamas armed wing members. The fourth man was from the Popular Resistance Committees.
 
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the strikes, saying they were targeting armed men who were preparing to launch a mortar attack on Israel.
 
The Israeli military attacked areas in Khan Yunis, Gaza city and Rafah.
 
The latest deaths brought the toll to 190 Palestinians killed since Israel resumed peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.