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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Israel demolishes last Gaza posts
Controlled military explosion at Erez crossing, northern Gaza Strip

Israeli soldiers have torn down their last military posts in the Gaza Strip ahead of a lightning withdrawal that could be completed by Monday.

Loud blasts marked the demolition of security offices, bunkers, bridges and watchtowers in view of the formal handover after a 38-year occupation.

The army's liaison headquarters in the northern Gaza strip has also been dynamited, military sources said.

But controversy over the demolition of synagogues might delay the pullout.

The withdrawal should begin on Sunday, three days ahead of schedule, and be completed within 24 hours.

On Sunday evening, a farewell ceremony is due to take place before soldiers get into tanks to finally move out of the area.

But the controversial destruction of synagogues in the former Jewish settlements could cause a 24-hour delay, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz warned.

Difficult order

Israel's Supreme Court has already rejected an appeal by leading rabbis against their demolition.

Mr Mofaz said the cabinet was due to make a final decision on Sunday.

He said he would vote against the demolition of synagogues, which many in Israel fear might be desecrated after falling in Palestinian hands.

He also said he would have wanted Palestinian officials to take charge of the synagogues, but they have refused.

"It is very difficult for me to give the order to destroy synagogues," he told Israel Radio.

Troops were originally due to leave by next Thursday, but Mr Mofaz advanced the pullout in the wake of incidents in which soldiers were hit by stone-throwing Palestinian youths.

The Israeli army has warned it will not tolerate its soldiers being attacked as they leave the territory.




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