Jubilant Palestinians in Liberated Gaza Strip
Palestinian children run in jubilation toward the vacated Neve Dekalim settlement. (Reuters)
By Mostafa el-Sawwaf, IOL Correspondent
KHAN YUNIS, September 12, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – Jubilant Palestinians flocked Monday, September 12, in large numbers to enter the liberated Gaza Strip, planting national flags on the rubble of dismantled Jewish settlements and chanting patriotic songs as Israeli troops pulled out of the territory after 38 years of occupation.
“I'm short of words to describe my happiness today,” joyful Mohammad Abu Rizk, told IslamOnline.net, before lying prostrate to thank God.
“Had it not been for the sacrifice of our youths and martyrs, we would have never witnessed this day.”
“We liberated our land at last,” added tearful Nadid Faris as he touched his land usurped by Jewish settlers three years ago. “I will spend the rest of my life and be buried in this land which I inherited from my father.”
In the dismantled settlement of Jani Tal, family reunion scenes were even more emotional and moving after years of separation imposed by Israeli barriers and checkpoints.
“It never crossed my mind to visit my relatives in Al-Mawasi area though it is only hundreds of meters away from my home in Khan Yunis,” Hassan Farwana said amid scenes of hugs and kisses exchanged by relatives.
Israeli troops began their final pullout from the Gaza Strip Monday.
Gaza divisional commander General Avi Kochavi, the last Israeli soldier, exited Gaza at 6:50 am (0350 GMT) through the metal gates on the Kissufim crossing where Israeli military bulldozers dug up mounds of earth to block the entrance.
Only synagogues and public buildings were left standing. Palestinians were angry at Israel's decision to leave the synagogues, torn between wanting to erase emblems of Israel and uncomfortable at being seen destroying places of worship.
Palestinian youths set ablaze several of the houses of worship left behind in 21 settlements evacuated last month under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to disengage from conflict with the Palestinians.
Palestinian security officers celebrate before deployment inside the Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Palestinian troops joined the festive scene with celebratory gunfire, kissing the liberated sand and dancing in groups.
Resistance fighters also entered the strip, paying tribute to their fellow ones for their sacrifices.
They performed congregational prayer in memory of those who were killed by Israeli occupation troops and others killed after carrying out resistance attacks against Israeli targets.
“It is indeed a historic moment,” a resistance fighter. “The sacrifices of our fellow fighters have finally paid off.”
Umm Mohammad was among other mothers, who came to the Morag settlement where their sons have carried out resistance operations.
“It has always been my dream to visit the place where my son had breathed his last in defense of our land,” she said.
Some Palestinians celebrated the moment by rushing in to Khan Yunis beaches, which were off-limits under the Israeli occupation.
In Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, residents have let out a sigh of relief after the Israeli military pullout, though they still have some fears that Israel’s control over the main Rafah or Erez checkpoint could turn the strip into an open-air prison.
“I’m a born-again Palestinian today,” Mohammad Al-Hashash, 55, said from land used to be home to the Etzmona settlement.
“I still can’t believe my eyes that the Israelis have gone once and for all.”