After 38 years of occupation by the Israelis, the Palestinians are today celebrating the return of the Gaza Strip into their hands.
Palestinian troops and civilians have been arriving by the truckload across the territory, entering the various settlements abandoned by Jewish colonists. Theyhave been evacuated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his controversial redrawing of the map in this part of the middle east.
Fireworks wrote the Palestinian’s joy in the night sky as one by one the 21 Jewish settlements were entered. The Palestinian Authority plans official celebrations for the handover, but they will be in competition with parades organised by militants who are claiming the credit for what they see as a withdrawal spurred by their violent campaigns.
One contentious issue has been the Israeli’s last-minute decision to leave standing 19 synagogues, which has angered the Palestinians, who have promised to demolish them.
However in Rafah someone did not wait for the bulldozers, and the sky there was lit up with flames as the synangogue burned.
Despite the pullout, Israel will retain control of Gaza’s links with the outside world. The army may have pulled out, but it will patrol the borders, the airspace, and the coastal waters.