Final Gaza Strip withdrawal to be completed by Tuesday

Israeli troops destroyed the last military installations in the Gaza Strip on Friday in final preparations to complete the pullout by early next week after 38 years of occupation.

Soldiers now left without bases and guard posts were to remain in armored vehicles until the withdrawal is completed by Tuesday.

The head of Israel's forces in Gaza, Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, will be the last soldier to leave the coastal strip and will lock the gate of the Kissufim border crossing in a small ceremony.

All Israeli soldiers should be out of Gaza by Monday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Friday. But the pullout could be delayed by a day because of uncertainty over the fate of more than two dozen synagogues in Gaza's demolished Jewish settlements, according to Guardian.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, urged Israel to demolish the synagogues.

“We maintain the highest respect for Judaism. We don't want to be put in a situation that we are demolishing synagogues in front of the world, or some of our people may do something that we don't want them to do,” Erekat was quoted as saying by Guardian.

In Gaza City, former security chief Moussa Arafat, assassinated earlier this week by dozens of gunmen, was given a military funeral. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was to eulogize the slain security chief, but remained in his compound when dozens of gunmen fired thousands of bullets in the air at the funeral procession outside his office.

Earlier Friday, Arafat's eldest son, Manhal, was released after being kidnapped by his father's killers, who belong to a group known as the Popular Resistance Committees. Manhal attended the prayer service with Abbas at the presidential compound, but made no public comment.

Earlier, eight policemen carried Arafat's coffin, covered by a Palestinian flag, to a military truck. The coffin was escorted to Arafat's home by 100 Palestinian police cars and dozens of other vehicles carrying gunmen from the ruling Fatah movement.

On photo: Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

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