"After years of continuous terror and attacks against the residents of the south, a new reality has emerged in the region," Southern Command Chief Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant said Thursday.
Speaking to soldiers who were under his command during the recent offensive in Gaza, Galant said "the enemy was dealt a severe blow, and we made a statement that we will not allow anyone to dispute our presence in this land.
"IDF soldiers operated in Gaza out of faith in the righteousness of their path and displayed a fighting spirit and determination," he said, adding "the battle for Israel's security is not over."
Many IDF soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead are scheduled to go on leave over the weekend, some of them for the first time in two months.
The thousands of soldiers and armored vehicles that were positioned along the border with Gaza have left the area, and even the roadblocks set up by Military Police have been removed.
"There's nothing like going home," one Armored Corps soldier said, "we are all certain that we will have to reenter Gaza at some point in the future, but at least in the meantime it will be quiet."