Israeli troops demolished the remaining military installations in the Gaza Strip yesterday, in final preparations for the pullout from the territory after 38 years of occupation.
The pullout was to be completed by Tuesday, and soldiers -- now left without bases and guard posts -- were to remain in armored vehicles until then. The head of Israel's forces in Gaza, Brigadier General 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.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said yesterday that all Israeli soldiers should be out of Gaza by Monday, but that 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.
The Israeli Cabinet is to decide tomorrow whether Israel will demolish the synagogues, or leave them intact, with the expectation the Palestinians will preserve them. Mofaz told Israel Army Radio yesterday that "it is very hard for me to give the army orders to destroy and blow up Jewish synagogues."
The Palestinians insist that Israel remove the synagogues. If Israel does raze the buildings, the pullout will be delayed by a day.
In Gaza City, former security chief Moussa Arafat, assassinated earlier this week by dozens of gunmen, was to be buried in a military funeral yesterday, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attending. Arafat's eldest son, Manhal, was released early yesterday after being kidnapped by the killers of his father, a militant group known as the Popular Resistance Committees.
The killing was a major challenge to the Palestinian Authority just days before the Gaza handover. It underscored the weakness of Abbas and the unchecked power of armed gangs. In the case of Arafat, the Palestinian security forces negotiated with the killers for the release of the hostage, instead of arresting them.
The power struggle could spill over into planned victory marches. The Palestinian Authority insisted it would lead the celebrations, while the rival Hamas militant group planned its own military-style parades to underscore its claim that it drove Israel out with its bombing and shooting attacks.
As part of yesterday's last-minute preparations for the pullout, Israel demolished a bridge leading to the now abandoned Jewish settlements and a liaison office at the main Israel-Gaza crossing point. By the end of the day, the army planned to have all its equipment out of the Gaza Strip.
Also yesterday, the outgoing US ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, said that Washington expects Israel to dismantle unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts, in line with its obligations under the US-backed road map peace plan. "We still expect as a country that Israel is going to fill its commitment," Kurtzer told Israel Radio.
Kurtzer, who is wrapping up a four-year term, noted that Israel has promised in writing to take down the outposts set up by settlers, in large part with government funding. "We have no reason to believe that Israel will try to evade its responsibility," Kurtzer said.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official, meanwhile, said Israel has set aside plans to ask Washington for US$2 billion in aid for its Gaza withdrawal while the US is busy dealing with the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina.
A high-level Israeli delegation that was to discuss the aid with US officials has postponed a trip to Washington, said the spokesman, Mark Regev. "The issue [of US aid] is not on the table at the moment," Regev said. "Everyone's dealing with Katrina."
Kurtzer hinted it would be wise for Israel to hold off on pursuing its aid request.
"The [Israeli] government may or may not decide to pursue it right now in view of the fact that the costs to the American taxpayer of Katrina are likely to be enormous in the period ahead," Kurtzer said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic