Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Last Israeli troops 'leave Gaza'

Palestinian National Guard affiliated with Hamas, in Gaza City 21/01
Palestinians are beginning to count the cost of the three-week conflict

The Israeli army says it has completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, following a three-week assault against militants from the Hamas group.

Its troops will remain near the border and its spy-planes continue to fly over Gaza, and its navy vessels are still firing sporadically at Gaza's beaches.

Earlier, the UN urged Israel to fully open all of Gaza's borders to allow reconstruction work to begin.

Aid agencies estimate it could cost up to $2bn to repair the damage.

A temporary ceasefire between Israeli troops and Hamas came into effect on Sunday - but it does not include any agreement on the opening of crossings, which are tightly controlled by Israel.

The UN's humanitarian chief, John Holmes, said that unless building materials were allowed in, no reconstruction could begin.

Investigation demand

Early on Wednesday, Israel said it had completed its troop pull-out from Gaza.

"As of this morning, the last of the Israel Defence Forces soldiers have left the Gaza Strip and the forces have deployed outside of Gaza and are prepared for any occurrences," an Israeli military spokesman told journalists.

More than 1,300 Palestinians killed
Thirteen Israelis killed
More than 4,000 buildings destroyed in Gaza, more than 20,000 severely damaged
50,000 Gazans homeless and 400,000 without running water

After reports that the Israeli navy had continued to fire shells at Gaza from the Mediterranean, in what the military has described as a deterrent measure.

Overall, Palestinian medical sources in Gaza say at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the three-week conflict, which began on 27 December.

Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were killed, the Israeli army says.

Thousands of homes were destroyed, and the territory's infrastructure has been badly damaged.

At a news conference in New York on Tuesday, Mr Holmes said it was "absolutely critical" that building materials - like cement and pipes - were allowed into Gaza.

"Otherwise, the reconstruction effort won't get off first base," he said.

So far Israel has been allowing only basic humanitarian supplies - like food and medicine - into Gaza.

Mr Holmes, who is expected to visit Israel on Wednesday, also stressed that he would be pushing Israel to allow international aid organisation into Gaza.

"In theory, they have permission. In practice, it's proving very difficult to get into Gaza."

EU foreign ministers are due to meet Israeli representatives for talks later on Wednesday.


Israel pulls troops out of Gaza

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was appalled by Israeli attacks on a UN compound in Gaza after seeing the destruction for himself.

Mr Ban said that those responsible should be held accountable and demanded a "full investigation".

He later visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which has been one of the main targets of Palestinian rocket attacks in recent years.

Mr Ban described the rockets as indiscriminate weapons and said the attacks by Hamas were violations of basic humanitarian law.

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