(VIDEO) Now that the IDF left the Gaza Strip, Israel will no longer show tolerance to Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli targets, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says.
Mofaz, who arrived at Gaza’s Karni crossing to bid farewell to the Strip, turned to the Palestinians and called on them to “create a new reality in the Gaza Strip and in Judea and Samaria, in order for us to be able to advance to a reality of peaceful coexistence.”
Closing ceremony in Gaza (Video: Yaron Brenner)
“We won’t be willing to accept, under any circumstances, any kind of terror coming from the Gaza Strip following the very significant step undertaken by Israel,” he said.
IDF completes Gaza withdrawal
Thirty eight years after IDF forces took the Gaza Strip by storm, Israel completed its withdrawal from the area, setting a new border in the country’s south.
A year and nine months after the term “disengagement” was first uttered by the prime minister, and less than a month after the actual evacuation began, the historic move has been completed.
The last soldier to leave the Strip was Gaza Division Commander Aviv Kochavi. He marked the occasion with a short speech delivered at the Kissufim checkpoint, several minutes after the gate was locked and the Israeli flag was raised on the checkpoint’s eastern side.
“After 38 years, an era is over,” he said. “The responsibility for what goes on inside is placed on the Palestinian Authority. Yet the responsibility over the security of Israeli citizens continues to be placed on our army. The soldiers that left the Strip overnight are already deployed in their new positions and are prepared to carry out any mission they are tasked with.”
Kochavi praised IDF soldiers for the successful evacuation. Meanwhile, IDF Southern Command Head Dan Harel, speaking at the Kissufim checkpoint, said “we are facing a new reality, a historic opportunity for the two peoples.”
“We hope for peace but prepare for any security challenge,” he said.
Harel noted the opportunity for creating a better reality exists at this time, and now the Palestinian Authority controls the entire Strip.
IDF forces head back to Israel (Video: Yaron Brenner)
“Anyone who reaches the fence area and challenges us - the IDF will know how to act against him using the means at its disposal,” he said. “Yet it’s the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility to prevent those kinds of incidents.”
IDF leaves Gaza (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
“The opportunity exists, and we hope that in the Palestinian Authority they will also be able to meet the challenge of the great responsibility and allow all of us to live here in peace,” he said.
Several minutes after the first armored vehicle left the isolated former settlement of Netzarim, the Palestinians already entered the community and troops were told shortly thereafter the synagogue there was set on fire.
At 2:45 a.m., while the last forces were making their way towards Israel, troops could hear Palestinians firing in the air in celebration. As IDF armored vehicles headed towards Israel, dozens of Palestinians approached the Netzarim junction led by youngsters holding Palestinian flags.
After receiving authorization from the senior commander at the scene, the troops fired warning shots in the air and the Palestinians promptly dispersed.
New era begins? (Photo: Ronny Sofer)
IDF forces completed the pullout from the Gaza strip early Monday, withdrawing from Gush Katif through the Kissufim roadblock, and from the Philadelphi Route, known as “Death Route,” through the Kerem Shalom roadblock in the southern part of the Strip. The IDF also held a short ceremony at the Karni gate.
Two high sand batteries were put up in proximity to the Kissufim gate, in order to prevent infiltration by a Palestinian mob. Shortly after the withdrawal a few Palestinian youths attempted to approach the batteries, but were blocked by Palestinian officers.
The day after the withdrawal, the IDF is maintaining high alert, fearing a renewal in fighting. The chief-of-staff guaranteed a “harsh response and zero tolerance” in any such event.