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Israeli forces complete pullout from part of West Bank
Updated: 2005-09-21 17:14

Jubilant Palestinians fired in the air and honked car horns Wednesday, after Israeli troops pulled out of the last of four abandoned Jewish West Bank settlements, completing the final phase of the withdrawal it began in Gaza last month, AP reported.

The final Israeli exit came after sundown Tuesday, when a few army vehicles left the empty settlements of Ganim and Kadim, next to the West Bank town of Jenin. Within minutes, thousands of celebrating Palestinians stormed in, setting rubble ablaze as gunmen fired in the air _ reprising the scenes in Gaza when Israel completed its pullout there last week.

The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the northern part of the West Bank marked the first time Israel has ever removed veteran settlements from territories claimed by the Palestinians for a state. Palestinians insist this must be followed by an Israeli exit from the rest of the West Bank.

Palestinian youngsters celebrate in the evacuated Jewish settlement of Ganim in the northern West Bank after Israeli troops left the settlement.
Palestinian youngsters celebrate in the evacuated Jewish settlement of Ganim in the northern West Bank after Israeli troops left the settlement. [AFP]
While agreeing that some other settlements must go in a full peace accord, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he intends to strengthen the main settlement blocs.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli forces left the other two evacuated settlements in the northern West Bank. Palestinians climbed to the roof of the old British fortress in Sanur and hung banners with pictures of Hamas leaders. Palestinians also overran the fourth empty settlement, Homesh.

In Gadim and Kadim, celebrations continued Wednesday. Militants said they would continue carrying out attacks against settlers and soldiers in the West bank. "With these guns, we drove them out of this area, and we will drive them out of other areas as well," said one masked gunman from the Al Aqsa Martyears Brigades, a violent group with ties to Abbas' ruling Fatah movement.

The four settlements were emptied August 23, a day after Israel removed the last of the settlers from all 21 Gaza settlements under Sharon's "disengagement" plan. Soldiers remained until Tuesday, when Israeli forces buried an empty synagogue building in Sanur, following a Cabinet decision not to tear down the abandoned synagogues.
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