The operation to clear the Jewish settlements in the West Bank has begun peacefully despite warnings that some settlers could resort to violence.
This is the third page of your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of views received:
I believe that these forced evictions are necessary. As brutal and inhumane as they may be I find that the reason behind them (an attempt to create peace) justifies all actions. However my heart does go out to those who are being asked to leave their homes with nowhere to go. But in conclusion the ends justify the means.
Zarah, London, UK
Simply put, the actions in Israel over the past few days are just complying with international law. There's no "sacrifice" involved. This is just doing what is right and what the world demands. Sadly, I believe that this will be the last time Israel complies with international law, the West Bank issue and the right of return of Palestinian refugees will remain as an obstacle to peace.
John, Kingston, Canada
I don't think these people should be forced out of their homes. I certainly hope that this is viewed as a step towards peace. If not, people's lives will have been disrupted for nothing.
Cindy, Philly, USA
I think the withdrawal of the settlements is a good idea and will most likely decrease violence in the future.
Aicha Kane, NYC, NY
I am a Muslim and I have followed the Arab/Israeli issue with keen interest. I think, the pullout will give them, and everybody who wants world peace, a sense of relief. I am very happy to hear the news.
Lansana, Freetown, Sierra Leone
I don't know what to make of it all. The Gaza strip is tiny and, I think, is soon to be completely fenced in by the Israelis. I really do believe that the best interests of all would be if the whole area were actually a single country - west bank and all, but one could never rely on the Israelis to respect (for example) Muslim claims to what are clearly mutual holy sites, particularly in Jerusalem. Without that, in an area where the horrors and savagery of religion are laid bare, there can never be a single state, I think, even though it is the most obvious best solution for the Israelis and the Palestinians, economically and politically. Like many of your correspondents, I am left with the conclusion that violence will continue - the real issue is Jerusalem.
Grant Gallagher, Milltown New Jersey
The Palestinians failed miserably with the first chance they had of building Gaza after the Oslo accords. Instead of investing their money and efforts in their economy, living conditions and welfare they invested in incitement and terror against Israel. This only caused them loss. This time they are getting much less than last time. Their economy has almost collapsed, their living conditions have worsened, their children have had little childhood and they have suffered death and injury. However, instead of building they dealt in destruction. The Israeli settlers did not move because of terror. The Palestinians are being given a second chance to make something of their independence because Israel does not want them under its rule. I hope they do not waste this chance. If they return to terror Israel could re-enter Gaza, unwillingly, but more easily now that there are no settlers to worry about. I hope the Palestinians avoid this eventuality by building this time instead of destroying.
Sara, Jerusalem, Israel
I have some basic doubts on the Gaza pull-out. Does the Israeli government expect us to accept only unilateral actions with regard to hopes for an independent Palestinian State? How does the Gaza pull-out relate to the roadmap or the peace process? Will America, the sponsor of the roadmap, accept any unilateral Palestinian action to the establishment of the State of Palestine? In disputes of lands, there is nothing called unilateral action. If unilateral actions of a single party in a dispute has effect and approval, why condone the Palestinian militants for their actions to liberate their homeland from the occupiers?
As the withdrawal from Gaza was a unilateral decision by Israel I don't see why the Palestinians are under any obligation to reciprocate in any way at all. It might be useful if they did but it would be wrong to call it an obligation. From the Palestinian perspective it must seem like a military victory as Israel would not have withdrawn if there was no resistance. One of the "arguments" of the settlers seems to be that they have a right to the land because they won it a war and that that was a "miracle" from God. Well haven't they just lost it in a war? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, I guess.
As the BBC likes to point out, "The unilateral Gaza withdrawal marks the first transfer of Palestinian land seized by Israel in 1967." Yet what's often not mentioned is that this was also done in the Sinai, in 1981, when it was returned to Egypt to make peace. Settlements were torn up then too. Israel has always been willing to make peace with other people who also want to make peace. The question is, will the Palestinians keep up their side of the bargain.
Benjy Arnold, London UK
I have stayed in one of these settlements as a guest for a few weeks. They are not like villages; they are more like communes, where people have lived their whole lives as part of enormous, diverse families. Although they will receive financial compensation, I believe that moving these people into a sterile state housing system (which I understand is the plan) is an awful outlook for their future. Let's hope the Palestinians make the most of what is truly the greatest sacrifice we have seen in the middle east. Palestinians claiming this as a victory is very distasteful, and leaves me less hopeful that there will be any future concessions or progress in their cause.
Marc Louis, London, UK
The Gaza withdrawal is a very positive step. However, there is still occupation. Israel must give Palestinians sovereignty over their legitimate airspace. As long as there will be airspace occupation the conflict will continue.
K Kalontar, Hillcrest, New York
Now what? Don't forget that in Gaza they still use the Shekel, or at best the dollar, as a currency. This means that the two economies are inseparable, despite the separation of the populations. When will the Israeli and the Palestinians realise that they've got no choice but to build one federation together.
OL, Brighton, UK
This is a huge step, and don't underestimate it, for a hardliner as Sharon. What enabled Sharon to do it is the large support for withdrawal in the Israeli public. To get public support for further steps the Israelis will have to see terror organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad be neutralized by the PA, it is now their call.
Israel has taken a major step toward peace in the region. Events will soon tell us if the Palestinians again "never miss the opportunity to miss an opportunity" as they have done so often in the past.
Carlos Lund, Madrid, Spain
Israelis have been too heavy handed with the Palestinians which has made the recent situation worse. I am sad for the settlers who have to leave but it is the right thing for them to go.
Brenda Slaney, Mansfield
From BBCArabic.com: It is revolution all the way to victory and this is the first defeat for the Israelis in Gaza. The second will be in the West Bank, God willing. For those who don't like it go drink from the sea of Gaza.
Rashad, Palestinian territories
From BBCArabic.com: Gaza first and last. Don't dream of more than the Gaza Strip. The settlers there are no more than a few thousand and they have had it with Palestinians there harassing them, so Sharon decided to act as though he is going ahead with the roadmap. He is protecting the settlers and keeping his distance from the Egyptian border and turning the Gazan people into a shock absorber in the event of any skirmishes. In the end, Gaza shall be the Palestinian state.
Osama Bushra, Egyptian in Kuwait
From BBCArabic.com:Everything points to many more difficulties ahead. This is more than a simple evacuation of some houses. What we see stems from zealous love of land. The idea of the 'Promised Land' is more than just a phrase, it is the most serious obstruction to any alleged peace. Now I know why all Israeli governments have been stubborn during negotiations. It is all caused by the pulse of the Israeli street which hangs on to every acre of land. The problem is the ideology to which any new prime minister may well yield in order to secure votes.
Ayman al-Masri, Cairo, Egypt
From BBCArabic.com:Do not exaggerate this and forget the core of the matter. Yes, the settlers are out of Gaza and we have a right to be proud, but let us not forget that the core of the matter is Jerusalem and around it revolves the whole struggle. Do not be fooled by any media talk that the Gaza evacuation is all that is required, and that it is now time to rest.
Siyul al-Khair, Egypt
From BBCArabic.com:And now, the headache! The Palestinians will claim victory and liberation. Arabs have a habit of calling defeat victory and making a lot of noise and yelling that they liberated Gaza. The whole thing is much simpler: Israel is moving its citizens to a more secure location and leaving the Palestinians to slaughter each other.
Omar Farouk, Mexico
From BBCArabic.com: Have you forgotten why Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the first place? Was it not in self-defence after Nasser had declared that 'it will be a full-scale war with the aim of destroying Israel?' What would you have done if you were in our place? Now, decades later, is it not the right of the two communities to live in peace? Take Gaza, take it, and take the West Bank and Jerusalem, except for some limited security positions, agreed to by both parties. In this hypothetical case, would you let Israel live next to you in peace?
From BBCArabic.com:To Yussef from Israel, I say yes, I am prepared to leave Israel live side by side in peace with us. I hope many people agree with me on this point.
Sameh Nabil, Cairo
With this withdrawal, Israel has done part of what has been demanded of it over the years. In turn, the Palestinian Authority should now be pressed to reciprocate by preventing the use of Gaza as a base for terrorist attacks against Israel. Also, foreign donors should make sure that the generous aid the PA receives is actually used for the needs of the Palestinian people, rather than disappearing in the hands of corrupt officials.
Matt, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
It is sad to see what is happening in the Gaza strip, but what the Israelis need to understand, is the land was never theirs, they were living on occupied Palestinian land and now its being returned to them. The only solution for peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is for Israel to hand back all Occupied land to the hands of the Palestinians.
I am relieved that the illegal settlements are finally being addressed by the Israeli government. However, I am worried about the Palestinian response. Egypt and the rest of the Arab world must take a more active role in advising Hamas of the danger of too much celebration and arrogance. Politically, this is an opportunity for the Palestinian people (with the world's eyes on them) to make more advances in their justifiable struggle for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the joint capital. And in the shorter term to push for the destruction of all illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. I hope that the PA and Hamas can work together and that the Arab world will use its knowledge and power to pressure Hamas into taking a back seat, at least for now.
Annie Belts, Anchorage, Alaska
Naturally, I really have a mixed feeling. These are people that grew up to find themselves in a particular settlement and are emotionally attached to it. On the other hand, the Palestinians want their land back. I sincerely hope that the Palestinians should appreciate the emotional torture these families have gone through and stop the violence.
Favour, Modena, Italy
Having just returned from a month in Jerusalem I am concerned that all the publicity of this current withdrawal from Gaza disguises the fact that many new large Israeli settlements are being built and populated by Israelis in the West Bank confiscating Palestinian land to build Israeli-only roads accessing these settlements.
Joan, Welwyn Garden City, UK
It's a good process toward peace. I hope both parties understand problems pertain to each other and work to resolve them for the sake of peace in the region and world also.
Nasir, Karachi Pakistan
While this has been a long time coming for the Palestinian people, I do feel for the Israeli people and the hardship this is bringing upon them. However, what seems to be the brightest point in this turn of events is the dignity and strength with which Sharon is carrying this. Also, his ability to take the blame for the consequences of the events of past years. I can only hope this will do something to quell the turmoil in that area and finally give the Palestinian people their land back once and for all.
Jon Wetter, Brookfield, IL
It's about time that something gave on the Israeli side. Let's just hope that the this courageous move by Ariel Sharon is recognised as such by the Palestinians and that paves the way to a peaceful solution for the area.
David Holden, Sutton Coldfield, UK
Great coverage for the Gaza withdrawal, but I am very curious as to what is happening to the settlers when they re-locate. I expect that there will be housing etc for them in their place.
M Conway, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Although I very much agree with the withdrawal, and think that it is long overdue, I believe if Sharon was really a man of true conviction, he would have stepped down as prime minister, and let another prime minister oversee the withdrawal, being that he was largely responsible for the settlements in the past.
Jason Feinstat, Toronto, Canada
I strongly believe that the Gaza withdrawal is the first step in bringing peace and stability to the region. I hope that that the Palestinians finally will have their own country.
Dr. Reynaldo Polanco, New York, USA
Removing the settlers from Gaza was a brave move from Ariel Sharon and the right move for both sides in the search for a lasting peace. It remains to be seen whether the West Bank settlements will be dismantled and the Palestinians finally get justice.
Howard Cardinal, London, England
I find it very interesting the amount of time given to the personal impact of the withdrawal of families from Gaza. I am not underestimating the impact this must be having at an individual level. It is just that this is getting far more air time than when thousands of Palestinian families' homes are bulldozed flat by the Israel army often killing people as well as making them homeless.
John Easton, Blackburn
There are currently six armed Arab groups in Gaza with memberships varying from a few hundred to several thousand. ALL of them are talking about this disengagement as a victory achieved by their armed might. If the Palestinian Authority fails to disarm these groups and curb their activities this opportunity for moving on to a solution to this bitter conflict will also have been lost. The Oslo accords failed because the Palestinians chose violence over negotiations. Let us hope they do not lose this chance as well.
Aryeh Wetherhorn, Elazar, Israel
I have no sympathy for the 'settlers'. Their illegal occupation of the Gaza has contributed to the unstable nature of this region. The Israeli government deserves recognition for the brave step they have made to 'right a wrong'. There is no place in the 21st century for religious zealots of whatever faith. The human race needs to move on towards not backwards
K C, London
As an Indian we know the pains of occupation of our country more than anyone in this world. We have suffered it for 200 years under the British Raj. We have achieved it only through non-violent protests. The non-violent struggle against the Apartheid Wall and settlements in Palestine must continue both inside Palestine and around the world. The Palestinians must continue to create strong grassroots and civil society pressure against Israel's illegal policies and their attempt to maintain the ruinous status quo.
C. Sachidananda Narayanan, Tirunelveli, India
This is indeed a historic moment and a major breakthrough. Settlers who did not wait to be evicted by the army should be saluted for their courage. This was the easy part though. What will be the next step in the West Bank? Is Sharon willing/capable of evicting the settlers there? We cannot say it is now time for the Palestinians to make a compromise. These people have lost everything and have nothing to offer.
Basil, London, UK
Certainly a bold move by Ariel Sharon despite the stiff oppposition he is facing at home. I think it's a welcome gesture and the onus is on the Palestinians to reciprocate by stopping any forms of attack. If this sacrifice by the Israelis will lead to reduced tensions between them and the Palestinians, then its a step in the right direction. I only hope that it can be sustainable.
Azenga, Nairobi, Kenya
Gaza's security was a drain on Israel's deficit economy, so tactical shrinkage was necessary to cut losses and consolidate gains in the West Bank. I fear that Gaza will become one big "reservation" of indigenous peoples, with its economy throttled by limiting international trade.
Dr Adam Nayyar, Islamabad, Pakistan
I feel sorry for those who have lost their homes but they had no right to be there in the first place. Having been to Israel and seen the way Palestinians are treated I have no sympathy for the settlers whatsoever.
J. Freeman, Weymouth, Dorset, UK
I, too, have a hard time summoning up a lot of sympathy for the settlers we see on television (though I respect the ones that went without trouble and never made the headlines) but I do have a great deal of respect for the ones carrying out the actual evictions, the soldiers and police force. It must be horrible for them to be spat on and cursed by the very settlers, they and many of their colleagues lost their lives protecting all those years.
Israel now leaves Gaza unilaterally, what it was prepared to leave under a peace deal envisioned in Oslo. Had only the Palestinians meet their commitments under Oslo, and dismantle terror organizations, Palestine had been already a state in existence. If the Palestinians seize this opportunity, stick to the Road Map, and dismantle terror infrastructure, then the Gaza withdrawal marks a new beginning.
Michael P., Ra'anana, Israel
Yes. When I see the news it is heartbreaking. I feel sad for the settlers, but if this step helps Israel to accomplish their purpose, that is peace, the credit should go the them who evacuated from Gaza.
This could be a big step forward. However, the solution on the West Bank issue remains to be seen. This time, Israel has made compromise. What about Palestinians? They should also make a compromise before they criticise their counterpart. I hope that the both sides think what they have to do for peace before criticising others.
What is new about this situation? Nothing is, well, apart from the fact that this time, the homes are those of Israelis, and they are not being bull-dozed as their Palestinian counterparts have experienced in the past. I think that those who have been affected by this need to step back and look at this behaviour and not only say that its wrong and shocking, but what we have been doing to the Palestinians by evicting them and bulldozing homes is also wrong.
Kelvin, London, UK
The people who lived in the settlements were victims of politics; however, the withdrawal from the settlements was inevitable. It had to be done.
Felipe Puente, San Diego USA
Don't the Israeli's ever worry about being hated by all of their neighbours? It's time they gave something back to a region and a people who view the immigrant Jewish diaspora with contempt and suspicion. We should remember that Palestinians have lived in that land in an unbroken line for thousands of years. Most Jews are immigrants from Europe, America and Russia. Israel has to give something back to an impoverished people it has only taken from for the past 50 years.
Petra, Oxford, UK
Muslims in the West can now start to hope for more withdrawals and the opportunity to bring investment and hope to Palestinians - let is hope all militancy can cool down now - even if gradually - it's still more than anything seen so far.
This is just another example where the International Community is bowing down to terrorism/Muslim extremists. If one believes this will bring peace and stability to the Middle East they are regretfully mistaken. Terrorists do not understand diplomacy. They only understand violence.
Does anyone else think that this is completely wrong, dragging Israeli families out of their houses, some by force; old women being dragged out of their homes by honourless soldiers. People praying in Synagogues, being forcibly evicted! It's sacrilege. The Jewish settlers have worked so hard and so long to build up that which has just been snatched away from them, land that was given to all Jews by the Lord Himself!
Christopher Houghton, Cumbria, England
What compensation, if any, are the Jewish people in Gaza entitled to? Is a valuation done on their homes so that when they are re-settled, they may have a similar quality home/lifestyle? I am sympathetic in the sense that if I had built my home and life in Gaza and I am told to leave (even if it is not my property/country) that at least a similar compromise, to the above, is made.
William, Bridgetown, Barbados
This is the bravest and most positive step that Israel has ever taken. Seeing that there was no partner on the Palestine side, Israel has surrendered land to the Palestinians without any guarantees of peace, as a gesture of good will. Now it's up to the Palestinians to respond by agreeing to a compromise on the West Bank leading to long term peace for all of us.
Roy Bouskila, Kfar Hanassi, Israel
As a Jew against the occupation of Palestinian land, I feel that releasing Gaza is a correct choice. However, I am saddened, deeply saddened, to see people forcibly removed from their homes. I am disappointed that things have led to this point. If the state had been established with Palestinians, not over them, we wouldn't be here in the first place. If the state of Israel and the extreme movements of Palestine released their campaigns of hatred of one another, I think it would be the most powerful move in the world - the establishment of a shared state. I continue to believe that this will one day be possible. Today, though, I am humbled and feel more at peace knowing that Palestinians will once again have access to the sea.
Ana , NYC, USA
It's difficult I know, but it's the right thing to do, I just hope the Palestinians wont give the Israeli government a good enough reason to put a halt to future pullouts; and I'm even more worried that this is not one of Ariel Sharon's tactics.
Riyadh Jardine, Johannesburg, South Africa
I sat and watched TV this morning, whilst a "settler" with an American accent bitterly complained that she was being put out of her home with nowhere to go!! She obviously had a home in America at some point, and left it to live in Gaza. To my mind, there are too many people in Israel who leave their country of origin to do the same. Fair enough if land was plentiful and the Palestinians all had proper homes too. I simply cannot summon up an ounce of sympathy for these settlers. They make me very angry!
Maureen, Aberdeen, Scotland
I'm neither Jewish or Palestinian/Arab. I am of European ancestry. I am aghast at how quickly people forget how the war in 1967 started. Israel was attacked by the Palestinians who were backed by other countries. To be fair, the Israelis were the victims and just because they happen to win the war, doesn't mean they are now the bad guys. The Palestinian refugees did not have to remain in camps, they could have moved elsewhere, just as the Israelis will now have to do. I hope the Palestinians appreciate this unprecedented move of giving back land won during a war. It is a serious sign of good will on the part of Israel and should be appreciated as such.
Is James of Sydney the only one who is willing to take a honest appraisal of the current situation against the background of its historical context? So much ambiguity would be cleared up if one like the BBC would only help to better educate the public concerning the historical roots of the problem (firstly, from 1967 to now and secondly, from the point of view of Israel's history and also the Palestinians' history in the land of "Palestine".
Fitzmaurice Linton, London, England
A sad day. The Jews came and created a community. Now the Palestinians will come and destroy it and blame once again the Jews for their misfortunes.
What a bold move by Sharon. What a painful concession. What an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to prove to the world it can govern its people in a civilised and democratic manner. Will they take this opportunity? I doubt it - not after seeing the kidnapping last week. Corruption, human rights abuses, and in-fighting as well as continued terrorism will probably prevail. I hope not. The PA has a window of opportunity to show the world it can change....we are waiting.
Marc Harris, Liverpool, UK
At last the Israelis get a tiny glimpse into the daily lives of Palestinians driven from their homes. The difference is that the soldiers show them little of the 'sensitivity' we have seen on TV and when a Palestinian's home is bulldozed before his eyes, he then has to pay for the demolition!
Certain turmoil during crossover time wasn't beyond expectation. But the pullout of Israeli settlers is necessary to bridge the long lasting rift between Israel and Palestine. This part of the world is heading towards completion of peace deals after a long time that mustn't get deterred under any circumstances.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India
While this relocation is difficult, to be sure those displaced will not be forced to move into overcrowded refugee camps for the next 40 years. I am heartened that this will ultimately be a positive action toward peace in the region.
John, Cincinnati, USA
We know it's difficult for Israel to leave the territory, but they have to understand the fact that this movement will bring peace in the Middle East.
To be fair I think instead of bulldozing the houses they should go up for auction and the money made should go to the families that are giving back the Palestinian land.
A momentous decision, and the first step towards resolving one of the great issues that litter Middle East politics. However much we applaud what is being done here in the name of peace, how much more difficult will the next step be, the removal of settlements from the West Bank, and the creation of two states living at peace?
Steve Day, Stafford, UK
I feel great sympathy for the families who are leaving the Gaza area today. I wish them well in their new homes. This was the only solution to a problem made by their own government. Perhaps it will only be with historical perspective that those who have been evicted today will understand why.
Kate Devitt, Washington DC
It seems to have been decided by the Israelis and Palestinians that that the houses of settlers should be destroyed. This is a sheer waste of the resources that went into the construction of the homes. A much better idea would have been to hold a lottery to distribute the homes among the Palestinians.
Asjad Iqbal, Weybridge, Surrey, UK
I hope those Israelis whose lives are forever going to be changed by the pull out will forget this and learn to live side by with the Palestinians.
Freeman Mwenge, Lusaka, Zambia
I am a Jew, and therefore naturally sympathise with the need for a secure Jewish state in the shadow of the Holocaust. But I am saddened by the contrast of sympathy shown to Jewish settlers being removed from their homes compared to what the IDF has been doing to Palestinian families for generations. Where were the reporters when homes were being bulldozed in Gaza and the West Bank to create 'security zones?' I bet those families weren't moved courteously by buses to new houses. Religion has a lot to answer for. It's people that matter, not beliefs in the supernatural.
John Harper, Guildford, Surrey
Peace for land sounds encouraging. But sometimes it's not easy to recognize you must quit the life and go somewhere else. I guess it is not the best way to force settlers out.
V. Jurgutis, Vilnius LT
As a lifetime expat with a colonial family history, I know too well that at the end of the day arithmetic is the first building block of democracy anywhere. A greater number of Palestinian refugees suffered on this very land and lacked the compensation or prospects that their new neighbours from Israel possess today. Let's not be too charitable here -this is undoubtedly the right thing to do, however emotional, and I suspect that any fair minded person will be inclined to agree, regardless of their personal persuasions.
Alexis Croucher, London, UK & Dubai
I really hope this works out. There has been enough suffering on both sides for too long. Just for once, let peace reign
Elaine , Letchworth Garden City, UK
It is sad to see the traumatic effects that this upheaval has on the lives of the Jewish people that have to evacuate from Gaza, but for the sake of peace, it is a price worth paying. In any society where there are significant groups of people of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds living side by side, there has to be principled compromise to ensure that the rights of both are met with dignity. We need to pray that this is the right way forward for a peaceful and more secure future for Israel and Palestine.
Chris Rankin, Birmingham, UK
Where are the Jewish people going to? Is there somewhere alternative for them to go or are they leaving their homes and having to start again.
It seems that a lot of people here forget the horror and tragedy that was inflicted upon the Palestinians. Yes it's sad that this has to happen and I do empathise but remember nearly one million Palestinians not only lost their homes and became refugees they didn't even have a government to give them refuge. The ball also isn't in the Palestinian court, sides have great responsibilities, Israel has to withdraw to internationally recognised borders and Palestinians have to begin social reform. Once this cycle begins then we will experience real peace.
Nas, London UK
As a Jordanian from a Palestinian origin, I believe that every step, however small, in the way of peace is great. The Middle East has been suffering from this conflict for so many years now. I hope that our Palestinian brothers resolve their internal conflicts and start moving towards establishing their independent state. The road to peace is not easy and both sides should make huge steps for the sake of their own children.
Adeeb, Amman, Jordan
It is painful to see Israeli Jewish and Palestinian people to suffer like this. This has been a troubled region and I think that this disengagement is a huge step in the direction of peace. Both the leaders and people from both communities should realise that it's time to forget whatever happened in the past (although for some I know it's difficult) and move on towards perfection.
The Palestinians must now be very careful. Israel has made a significant concession, despite the objection of many of its citizens. If Hamas or any other terror group now continues their war, they will most definitely be seen as the aggressors.
This will end in complete disaster. We have already heard the terrorist organisations clearly state that they do not intend to stop until they have taken all the land from Israel. I wouldn't be surprised if Ashkelon is a desolation in the very near future and I also believe that Ashdod and Ekron will come under attack. Watch this space!
Every single step towards PEACE will be remembered and appreciated by all people around the world.
Muhammad Hussain, Ca, USA
The Gaza withdrawal is based on the height of irony. For the past 5 years, Sharon and the conservatives in both Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US have followed a policy based on political and military power. They were a major influence in the invasion of Iraq and Sharon openly waged a war of attrition against Palestinians. Now, demography is trumping all. In six years there will be more Palestinians in greater Israel (from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River), than Israelis. Demography is forcing the conservatives to give the Palestinians their own state, so that Israel doesn't have to adopt a policy of apartheid to protect a minority of Israelis in Israel. Why didn't the conservatives realize this in 2000 and save all of the pain and death we have witnessed since then?
Jim Hopewell, Maryland, USA
If I were to show some of the pictures of the anger and frustration of the Israeli protestors that I viewed today and put them beside some of those with Palestinian protestors from the past I don't know if many outside their own could make the distinction. After so many years of Palestinians losing their homes over the past few decades I would think that both sides might understand each other a little better. If they could only see what I see.
Brent, Middletown, CT
Tears came to my eyes as I watched these Israeli families struggle to accept leaving what they had worked so hard to build. The young soldiers in 1948 fought and died for the land. They took a desert and made a lush environment and community. Now they are forced to gift the land to Palestinians. Will there be peace? Only if Hamas is dissolved from Palestinian society. Over the coming weeks we will see what the Palestinian government is willing to give, in order to show their commitment to peace.
V Kratzer, USA
If this, in fact, leads to peace and an end to the killing of civilians by the Palestinians then the people who gave up their homes in Gaza are true heroes. I applaud their sacrifice and sympathize with their pain.
Jason, Detroit, USA
I, like most of my Jewish community, are for the disengagement because we believe that it is an inevitable step if there is any hope of peace. However, it is not only the soldiers who are crying. Seeing Jew fight Jew is one of the most painful images I have seen, and while I know it must be done, I wish it could have been different.
David, Vancouver, Canada
I do not understand why Jewish settlers are forced to leave their homes. It should be optional with no guarantee that if they stay they will be safe. Many Palestinian Arabs remain safe in Israel, why not Palestinian Jews in a possible new Palestinian state?
Frank Onofrio, Wellington, FL, USA
However sad and tragic the disengagement from Gaza undoubtedly is for the 8,000 settlers who have built their homes there, it has become clear that there continuing settlement in that violent region is untenable due to the sheer weight of numbers on the opposing side. The best analogy one can give for the present situation is that of chess grandmasters, who demonstrated time and time again how important it was to sacrifice a pawn or two as a strategic ploy to win the game overall. This is precisely the gambit Sharon has decided to play, and frankly, there is no-one within the Israeli government as well-equipped as he to play it.
David Cohen, London UK
I'm neither an Israeli nor a Palestinian but I nearly wept watching the settlers cry, but there can be nothing too much to do for peace. I praise the extraordinary courage of the Israelis especially Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Now the ball is firmly in the hands of the Palestinians: should they continue with their acts of terrorism, then Israel will be justified in using deadly force to repel them and refuse to give an inch more of the so-called occupied territories.
Sylvester Nomji, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria
Looking at the tears of the Jewish settlers, torn from their homes, many people are reminded of the Arab families who fled Israel in 1948. I would ask people not to stop at this image, but to keep going back a few years earlier and imagine countless European Jewish families being forced out of their homes, millions becoming overnight exiles with no place to go, and their lives in mortal danger. The Arab citizens who left Israel became refugees, and this is always a human tragedy. But many Arabs didn't listen to their leaders telling them to get out in 1948 (to clear the way to destroy the Jewish enclave) they stayed in their homes in Israel and live here today, most of them in prosperity. Can anyone guess what would happen to any Jewish Gaza settler who would agree to stay in his home under a Palestinian government? There is a lot of room for reaching correct conclusions here.
I'm Jewish and live in the US. I can't help but feel, in my heart, that I wish it weren't happening. Any intellectual opinions I may have had to the contrary are now overridden by empathy for the Jewish residents of Gaza. I keep thinking that their families, only one generation ago, fought and died for this land. I feel sad.
Jen, New York, USA
Israel has taken huge steps towards peace today - a country has uprooted 8,000 of its citizens to move towards peace. Now it is time for the Palestinians to show the world they too are a people of peace, to become a beacon of democracy and human rights - they have a wonderful chance the hopes of the Middle East rests on it.
It is sad seeing Israeli people forced away from their homes, and seeing some of them feel the need to be violent to protect their homes. And they had only been living there for about 30 years. Isn't that what happened to the Palestinians as a result of incidents in 1948 and 1967? And the Palestinians had been living in the area of Israel for much longer.
John Fraize, Philadelphia, PA
While I sympathize with the sadness that comes with having to leave a home that you made for yourself, I agree with the Israeli government for closing the Gaza Strip settlements. If the settlers really care about Israel and the Jewish people as much as they claim to they should feel that if they can do anything to improve Israeli/Palestinian relationships or prevent one suicide bombing then their move was worth it.
Aleta, Chicago, USA
It is clear that the withdrawal from Gaza will not lead to peace. It is already apparent that there will be demands for further withdrawals and that Palestinians will not rest until Jerusalem is their capital also. And in the end even this result will not bring peace for there are those who will not be satisfied until anything in the region called "Israel" is wiped off the map.
Walter Schroedter, Hamilton, Canada
The withdrawal is long overdue. The master minds of the settlement move have come to realize that the settlements were illegal. The Palestinians should also welcome the move, even though late, but better late then never. The pressure is on Ariel Sharon to withdraw from the remaining illegal settlements for the sake of peace.
Sam, Montreal, Canada
The war between the Israel's and the Palestinians has been going on ever since I was a child, (old enough to remember). If there's one thing I have learnt from it is that if you want peace, to work for justice. I hail PM Sharon for taking this very bold and courageous step of letting go of the Gaza strip. It is the right thing to do.
Laura Ouma, London
No one has mentioned the cost in dollars per month of protecting the Israeli settlements in Gaza. Can anyone produce the statistics and speculate what else could Israel do with the huge savings after the withdrawal.
J Wolczko, Gold Coast, Australia
It was heart-rending watching young people, many of whom have probably known no other home, pleading to stay. I think that the soldiers concerned were doing a brilliant job in very difficult circumstances and, their tears were clear evidence of this. However, mention by one elderly resident of "The Promised Land" showed why the Middle East - and now: London, Madrid, New York, Bali, etc - have so many problems. We must, all of us, stop feeding our children fairy tales which skew their perspectives on the World in which we all live.
Harry Webb, Broadstairs
This is a sign of hope for both the Israel and the Palestinian people. Let both sides honour this move and maintain security for their own benefit. At last there is a sign that Ariel Sharon wants to deliver peace and end decade of occupation.
Emmanuel Gonda, Canada/Sudan
It is in the interest of peace, for the peace of the people, region and the world. Any step taken in this direction is always a good sign. Best of luck.
M Sami Khan, Dubai-UAE
I think this is a great move. It will have positive consequences on the peace process not only in Palestine but also with Syria hopefully in the near future.
I have no words. My emotions are mixed. I feel sorrow for the Israelis that have to move, but I see this as a chance for peace for Israel as a whole. I can only imagine how the soldiers feel having to move them. I pray for calm and to be stronger. This is not the end but a new beginning.
Barbara, New York, USA
I usually am very critical of Israeli policies as regards Palestinians, but I must say this time round that I salute the people of Israel for making this painful and brave move towards peace. The world should take note.
From BBCArabic.com: We Palestinians have lived for ages under occupation, so we congratulate ourselves for this victory, but we must not distinguish between the many pieces of land that make up Palestine. The liberation of Gaza is not the end of the road. We have to hang on to our rights which were enshrined by the UN which ensure the creation of a Palestinian Arab state which has control on all the land that was occupied after June 1967. We are an optimistic people and we will prevail.
Amine Benimatar, Palestinian territories
From BBCArabic.com: I am a Palestinian from Gaza, and I am a refugee. I see the withdrawal from Gaza as a precursor to the full withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. I don't want to be pessimistic in this very important era of our national struggle. I hope that all exiled people like me will go back not only to Gaza but to all of the territories.
Ahmad Maysour, Alexandria, Egypt
From BBCArabic.com: I see this as a defeat for occupation. What is required now is to close our ranks to show the whole world that we are civilised. Gaza will be the beginning of the full liberation of our lands, God willing. I personally am very optimistic.
Fahd Atef, Rafah, Gaza
From BBCArabic.com: The aim of the withdrawal is clear: To turn Gaza into a big prison in order to hit the Palestinian resistance and to show to the whole world that Israel wants peace. Why does Israel build the barrier if it wants peace? And will it withdraw its forces from other Palestinian cities?
Nabeel Almasri, Alexandria, Egypt
From BBCArabic.com: I am very happy because of this withdrawal, but I feel that my happiness will be short... let us see how things will go.
Ali Zaki, Cairo, Egypt