IDF pulls last troops from Gaza, ending 38 years of military rule
IDF's Gaza commander: The mission has been completed and an era has ended.
Israel Defense Forces soldiers locked a gate at the Kissufim crossing between Israel and Gaza around 7 A.M. Monday, after the last Israeli soldiers left the Strip, thereby ending 38 years of Israeli military rule. Click here to view Photo Gallery: Leaving Gaza
"The mission has been completed and an era has ended," said Gaza commander Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, the last Israeli soldier to leave Gaza.
"From now on, the Palestinian Authority bears responsibility for what happens in the Gaza Strip," he said. "The responsibility for the security of the citizens of the state continues to be all ours."
"Today is a day of joy and happiness that our people were deprived of in the past century," said Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, adding that the Palestinians still have a long path toward statehood. He denounced Israeli rule in Gaza as "aggression, injustice, humiliation, killing and settlement activity."
Just after sunrise, the last column of tanks rumbled out of Gaza, passing through the Kissufim crossing into Israel.
Two soldiers in purple berets locked a gate at the border and Kochavi shook their hands. Israeli soldiers then raised the flag, removed from Gaza's military headquarters, on the Israeli side of the border.
Kochavi's arrival capped a night-long evacuation of the last Israeli soldiers in Gaza, after clearing out the residents of the Strip last month.
The convoys began rolling out of the Gaza Strip around 1 A.M. on Monday and flag-waving Palestinian police took over the abandoned positions.
Just before 3 A.M., the first IDF tank passed through Kissufim into Israel, and was followed by a long line of IDF armored vehicles.
The government gave the IDF the green light to end military rule in Gaza during a largely symbolic cabinet vote Sunday.
PA takes control of areas cleared by IsraelisPalestinian Authority forces, meanwhile, took control of the areas cleared by the Israelis.
Palestinian officers in red berets entered what was once the largest settlement, Neveh Dekalim, where IDF forces had left their headquarters behind for Palestinian use.
The PA officers raised a Palestinian flag at the site.
South of Gaza City, buses carrying Palestinian police moved toward the abandoned Netzarim settlement. The convoy was accompanied by a bulldozers and cars packed with cheering civilians who were honking horns and waving national flags.
PA security forces have also entered two demolished settlements in northern Gaza and the former settlements of Netzer Hazani, Ganei Tal and Morag in southern Gaza, Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa said.
Mosques blared chants praising the "liberation" and fireworks lit up the sky.
Palestinians flooded into the empty settlements before dawn Monday and carried off what was left in the debris, including chairs, tables and shopping carts. Young men tore down electricity poles, grabbing the wires, ripped out toilets and walked off with doors and window frames.