Israel has finally lowered its flag over the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation.The way is now clear for the completion of its troop pullout and the handing over of the territory to the Palestinians on Monday. The flag-lowering ceremony took place at Neve Dekalim, one of the 21 Gaza enclaves that were recently evacuated. As it was going on, thousands of Palestinians waited to pour into the site and as they pressed forward witnesses said Israeli soldiers shot and wounded three Palestinians. The Israeli military is not only withdrawing from Gaza but has handed over security along the frontier with Egypt – known as the “Philadelphi route” – to Egyptian border police. Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s so-called “disengagement” plan from the Palestinians, 9,000 Jewish settlers have been removed from Gaza and a corner of the West Bank. The final obstacle to the handover was lifted when Israel’s cabinet voted to leave 19 synagogues still standing in the enclaves intact. Leading rabbis had ruled that destroying them would be a greater sin than possible desecration by Palestinians.