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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Israel ends final pullout phase
Ganim celebrations
Young boys and gunmen joined the celebrations in Ganim
Israeli troops have left two West Bank settlements, thereby completing the final phase of the unilateral withdrawal began in Gaza last month.

As the last troops left, thousands of Palestinians arrived, firing guns into the air and lighting fires.

Unlike Gaza, Israeli forces will carry on patrolling the area and will not hand over control to the Palestinians.

It is the first time Israel has removed long-established settlements from land claimed for a future Palestinian state.

The last settlers scheduled for evacuation from the West Bank were removed on 23 August, after the removal of thousands from homes in Gaza had been completed.

But the army continued to patrol the areas as they removed infrastructure and piled sand onto a deconsecrated synagogue to prevent it being vandalised.

Official ceremony

Ganim and Kadim settlements are close to the Palestinian town of Jenin, and within minutes of the troops leaving, thousands of residents stormed in.

One of Israel's most wanted men went to the Kadim enclave where urged Palestinians to continue the armed struggle against Israel.

Jenin Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Zakaria al-Zubeidi told a cheering crowd: "We liberated a small part of our motherland and we will not give up our weapons before the end of occupation in all the Palestinian territories."

The withdrawal of the army from Ganim and Kadim settlements completes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's pullout plan, which has caused controversy in Israel ever since its proposal last year.

Palestinians insist that Israel must leave the entire occupied West Bank to allow them to establish a viable independent state.

Mr Sharon acknowledges that more settlements must be abandoned, but the largest Jewish settlement blocs will be consolidated.

Israel occupied Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 war, since when it has settled hundreds of thousands of Jews on the territory.

More than 400,000 settlers remain on occupied land claimed by Palestinians for their future state.

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