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21 Jan, 2009 17:32

Israeli troops complete Gaza pullout

Israel has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Gaza after a three-week long offensive that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Palestinians.But the army has left behind many unexploded bombs and shells.

That poses a threat to civilians. An estimated $US 2 billion is needed to restore the war-ravaged Gaza.

Ihab al-Ghussein, Hamas Interior Ministry representative said:

“Today, Israel withdrew its combat vehicles from the Palestinian territories that it invaded on December 27, 2008. Unfortunately, some hostile actions from the Israeli side still continue. Patrol boats are still firing. We would like Israel to stick to its ceasefire obligations. Indeed, many shells and missiles have fallen on Palestinian lands during this war, and many of them did not explode. Palestinian police and field engineers have been making great efforts to defuse them. We keep working to protect Palestinian citizens. We are ready for any turn of events, but we would like to see a dialogue going on”.

Meanwhile, a group of Russian doctors are heading to Gaza to help treat children injured in the conflict.

Israeli military units remain on the Israeli side of the border, with the navy and air force being on alert.
Hamas has held rallies to celebrate what it calls a “victory of heroic resistance” for Palestinian people.

U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first day in office, called the Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and assured him that he intended to work with him as partners to establish a durable peace in the region.

Earlier, speaking in Sderot, southern Israel, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the new U.S. President Barack Obama to make Middle East peace ‘a matter of priority’.

“As a member of the Quartet, as a leader of the world, the United States has a full responsibility to lead this peace process,”
said Ban Ki-moon, reported Associated Press.

He toured the Gaza Strip and described the situation there after Israel's three-week military onslaught, as ‘heartbreaking, shocking and alarming’.

Ban Ki-moon also said the Israeli bombing of a UN-run school killing over 40 people, as well as shelling of the UN mission and other civilian buildings in the area, were outrageous.

The last Israeli soldier is reported to have left Gaza on Tuesday.

However Ewa Jasiewicz from the Free Gaza Movement told RT that Gazans don't feel the violence is over, as people are still being killed, and that humanitarian conditions are disastrous.

Israeli forces killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them women and children. They also injured 7,000 civilians, while destroying over 4,000 houses and much of Gaza's infrastructure and buildings.

According to the UN's aid agency working in the densely-populated strip, $2 billion worth of property was destroyed by Israel, and Gaza's economy has shrunk by 85%.

It will take at least a year for the Gaza to recover from the Israeli onslaught, the UN says.

Israel lost 10 soldiers while three civilians were also killed by Hamas rockets.

Meanwhile, Hamas has held rallies to celebrate what it called a “victory of heroic resistance” of the Palestinian people.