JERUSALEM (AFP) – The Israeli army has announced its withdrawal from two more Jewish settlements, thus completing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon”s historic pullout from the Gaza Strip and a small corner of the northern West Bank.
The army left the settlements of Ganim and Kadim — the first two enclaves to be declared evacuated in August — on Tuesday evening, the military said in a statement.
It pulled out of the nearby West Bank settlement of Sanur on Monday and Homesh last week.
On August 23, Sanur and Homesh became the last enclaves to be evacuated of Jewish settlers under Sharon”s pullout plan.
Israeli military sources have stressed that unlike the Gaza Strip, the area evacuated in the northern West Bank will remain under Israeli control with soldiers continuing to patrol the district.
Hundreds of Palestinians swarmed into the evacuated Jewish settlement of Sanur in the northern West Bank on Tuesday after Israeli troops left the tiny enclave.
A joyful crowd of civilians and policemen hoisted Palestinian flags from a former mosque, once used by Sanur settlers as a Jewish seminary and synagogue, as well as a former British mandate garrison, an AFP photographer said.
Palestinians then held a "prayer of thanks" in the largely moribund mosque, now renamed "freedom mosque".
The Palestinians, who arrived in trucks mounted with loudspeakers sang patriotic songs, entered Sanur and three other enclaves in the northern West Bank after Israeli troops left the settlements earlier Tuesday.
"They left without coordinating with us. We therefore headed to the area with around 100 security service personnel," mayor of Jenin, Qadura Mussa said.
He confirmed that the Palestinian flag had been hoisted above the former British police station and mosque, where he said prayers were held for the first time since the Palestinian territories were occupied in 1967.
A ceremony marking the departure of the Israeli troops was to be organised in Sanur later Tuesday, he added.
Israeli military sources confirmed that troops had left Sanur, but stressed that unlike the Gaza Strip, the area would remain under Israeli control with soldiers continuing to patrol the district.
Israel”s chief rabbi Shlomo Amar said that a recently built synagogue in Sanur had been buried under tonnes of sand to avoid the fate of those left standing in Gaza, torched and ransacked by Palestinian mobs.
Meanwile a Palestinian official in the Gaza Strip announced that the border terminal between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, which was closed before Israel left the territory, will be open on Friday and Saturday.
"The terminal will open on Friday and Saturday to students and Palestinian nationals so they can leave or return to the Gaza Strip while waiting for the problem to be sorted," national security advisor Jibril Rajoub told reporters on a visit to the crossing.
"It is a humanitarian initiative taken in coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Egypt," he added.
The Rafah terminal, the only official access point between Gaza and Egypt, was closed on September 7, five days before Israeli troops withdrew from the Palestinian territory after a 38-year occupation.
The Palestinians disagree over the future of the Rafah crossing with the Israelis, who still want to inspect civilians and merchandise entering Gaza for fear that arms could be smuggled into the territory.