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Demolition in Gaza almost complete

Associated Press
Published September 10, 2005

JERUSALEM - Powerful explosions ripped apart headquarters and sent water and communication towers crashing to the ground Friday as Israel destroyed the last of its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and prepared to hand over the territory to the Palestinians early next week.

The destruction of the military installations erased from the Gaza landscape most of the remaining symbols of Israel's 38-year occupation of the coastal strip, where 8,500 Jewish settlers lived among nearly 1.4-million Palestinians until Israel cleared out all 21 Jewish settlements two weeks ago.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said he expects all Israeli soldiers out of Gaza by Monday, or Tuesday at the latest if the Israeli Cabinet decides that troops should raze more than two dozen synagogues still standing in the otherwise demolished Jewish settlements. The alternative is to leave them intact, with the expectation the Palestinians will preserve them.

As part of its departure from Gaza, Israel is to abandon its control of a dangerous border road between Gaza and Egypt where Palestinian snipers have routinely fired on Israeli patrols.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be asked about his vision for the West Bank - including Palestinians' fears that he is unilaterally drawing a border there while blocking attempts to renew talks with them - during the United Nations' 60th anniversary celebrations in New York next week. Israel has continued construction in some West Bank settlements in defiance of its obligation under a U.S.-backed peace plan to freeze expansion.

[Last modified September 10, 2005, 01:23:18]

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