Skip to main content

Abbas: Pullout a 'great moment'



• Interactive: Road map explainer
• Interactive: Timeline
• Map: Occupied lands
• Interactive: Key Players
• Gallery: Mideast lands


Will the Israeli pullout from Gaza improve prospects for peace in the Middle East?
or View Results



ELI SINAI, Gaza (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas toured the evacuated Jewish settlement Eli Sinai Monday, calling Israel's withdrawal a "great moment" but adding much more needed to be accomplished for the Palestinians to feel "happy and free."

On Monday, Israel withdrew its final troops from Gaza, ending 38 years of occupation.

Palestinians rushed into the abandoned settlements, firing guns, singing and in some cases setting fire to abandoned synagogues.

Abbas said the joy of the Palestinians was understandable after years under Israeli rule. "They have to express their feelings," said Abbas.

"This is a historic day," he said, adding that the Palestinians still need to have access in and out of Gaza, a reference to border crossings that Israel controls.

"We need to look at the West Bank and end the occupation there," Abbas said.

Early Monday, a string of Israeli tanks and military vehicles rumbled across the border at the Kissufim crossing as heavy machinery moved in behind them to create a makeshift roadblock on the Israeli side of the border.

An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman officially marked the pull-out at 7 a.m. (12 a.m. EDT).

After Israeli forces closed the Kissufim gate behind them, an IDF spokesman challenged Palestinian officials.

"From this point on, the full responsibility for events occurring in the Gaza Strip and for thwarting terror attacks against Israeli targets will be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority and its apparatuses," a statement said.

Gaza commander Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi expressed similar sentiments.

"For all that takes place in (the) Gaza strip lays on the Palestinians," he said. "The responsibility for the security of the Israelis is all ours.

"The very same soldiers that have left the (Kissufim) gate are those who are deploying now along the new line," Kochavi continued. "They are alert and they are ready to fulfill any mission and to face any challenge."

As the soldiers evacuated each settlement, Palestinians rushed in waving flags and chanting, "Allahu Akbar" or "God is great."

Along Gaza's border with Egypt, Palestinian security sources said Egyptian troops killed a 34-year-old Palestinian man, part of a group that rushed toward the Egyptian border after the Israelis pulled out.

Egyptian officials said their troops had not killed anyone.

Israel formerly guarded the Philadelphi corridor, a narrow strip of land separating Gaza from Egypt. But after negotiations with Israel, Egypt took over guarding the corridor, deploying more than 100 policemen.

A CNN cameraman entered the former settlement of Netzarim early Monday with Palestinian military and police, who were among the first to arrive.

Cameraman Adil Bradlow said several fires had already been lit before he arrived.

It was not clear who started the fires, although as Palestinians flooded the area they added to the flames and fired weapons into the air, creating a tense atmosphere. Police tried to control the situation.

"Crowds are venting their anger on what remains of this settlement," Bradlow said.

On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet voted not to demolish 25 Jewish synagogues left behind in Gaza, instead asking the Palestinian Authority to protect them.

But Abbas said the buildings were not synagogues any more and would be demolished "in order to use the land on which they were built to create projects for the greater good of the Palestinian people," according to a translation from Ramattan News Agency.

A Palestinian official told CNN the Palestinian Authority would use some of the synagogues as community centers.

But there are no plans in place to protect the synagogues from any Palestinian citizens who might want to damage them, a Palestinian official told CNN.

Palestinians were hammering down the pillars of the Netzarim synagogue, as a fire added to the damage.

The Israeli ministers voted Sunday to complete the historic pullout Sunday. The Israeli military's departure had been expected in two weeks but was accelerated in recent days.

Israel lowered its flag over Gaza on Sunday, ceremoniously marking the final phase of the disengagement plan.

Story Tools
Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.

© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines