Israel said this was the end of an era
Israel has withdrawn its troops from the Gaza Strip, ending 38 years of occupation.
As the troops left, jubilant Palestinians poured into empty Jewish settlements, setting fire to abandoned synagogues.
Palestinians say the occupation has not ended as Israel will retain control over the territory's air and sea space and, at least temporarily, all its borders.
Do you think life will improve in the Gaza Strip? Will the Israeli withdrawal kick start the stalled peace process?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I've read all the comments below, and would just say one thing on this situation, let's wait 6-12 months and have the TV cameras go back to Gaza, those images will be the most realistic indicator as to who wants what in the area. Words are cheap, it's actions which will tell the story at that point.
Trudy Segal, Ascot, Berkshire
This will be seen as a capitulation by Israel and will only encourage more violence from the Arabs that surround the country. The only end to this conflict will come when either Arabs or Jews are driven from the area completely.
The Palestinians must step up or shut up. The Palestinian leadership needs to bring law and order to their people. Clamping down on the radical elements, like Hamas, is a must if there will ever be a possible independent Palestinian state. No Arafat should mean, no more excuses.
Dan Braverman, Minnesota, USA
I think we should applaud the courage amidst all odds. The Palestinians on the other hand can also emulate these admirable risks by the Israelis and prove the world wrong.
Rowland Ogundu, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
This is a withdrawal only in name nothing more. Israel still controls the border, air and water in Gaza and continues to build more settlements in West Bank. All those who are projecting the Palestinians for failure, I would like to see them live in prison like Gaza and improve lives.
Fakhunda, CA, USA
It is now clear why the Israelis wept their way out of Gaza in great pain. The magnitude of pandemonium in Gaza coupled with the destruction of Jewish synagogues by Palestinians with impunity speak volumes about the mindset of the people there. I wonder how things would be like if it was mosques that were set ablaze. All eyes are on the Palestinian authorities to instil some form of leadership and decorum.
Paul Amfo, London
The liberation of Gaza and the expulsion of the colonists should be welcomed, and is 38 years overdue, so long as it is not at the cost of colonisation and annexation in the West Bank. It seems that the Israeli overlords have even seen fit to open Gaza's border with Egypt. However, Israel still controls the airspace and sea and could still attack or invade at any time it wishes. If the Palestinians are to have a sovereign state, they must control all their territory and they must be allowed to have their own armed forces. Weapons are not "smuggled" into Gaza, they are "imported".
Alex Wright, near Portsmouth, England
All the people who say that Israel has control over the border with Egypt need to look at events on the ground. The Palestinians are already crossing to the Egyptian part of Rafah without any controls. In the end it is Egypt's (who never actually helped the Palestinians) decision when to open and when to close the border and Israel can do little about it.
Omer, Israel, UK
Watching news footage of Palestinians torching and gutting Jewish synagogues in Gaza was very disturbing to me. How would the Muslim world react if Jews did the same to mosques inside Israel? It makes me wonder if the Palestinians will respect and protect Christian churches and Jewish sites, should they regain control of East Jerusalem.
W Battista, Porto Alegre, Brazil
It is an opportunity that should be used by those who wish for peace, stability, prosperity and ultimately statehood. Hopefully the extremists will recognise this and show some restraint.
M Meeking, Philippines
Occupations do not end when you withdraw your troops from the line of fire, yet keep control over a people's land, air and water exits and entry ways. They also do not end when you dismantle illegal settlements in Gaza, only to enlarge and fortify the illegal settlements in the West Bank. And with the closing off of Gaza's main connection to the outside world [the Rafah Crossing], Israel is now set to turn Gaza into one big impoverished Palestinian prison. This is no cause for celebration and does not bring the Palestinians any closer to freedom, to dignity, to having access to the most basic of human rights, let alone to establishing a viable, independent state.
Cherine, Cairo, Egypt
It is time to see that the fighting has to stop. The end is near and this is only a stepping stone to bring it about sooner. So sad that we all have to fight and bicker over land, beliefs and the like.
Michelle, Indiana, USA
Ariel Sharon encouraged for decades people to move to Gaza so he is the right person to carry the responsibility of this evacuation. If his situation will be painful, he has deserved it. The real question is what happens now when the settlements are broke down? Leaving Gaza sounds dramatic but it does not affect anything yet to relationships of Palestine and Israel. This decision has been Sharon's alone and there is known no logical continuation to this. The Palestine administration has had only a minor part, although it is to take responsibility of Gaza and its residents. In practice Israel controls Gaza's borders and sea frontiers.
Pekka, Helsinki, Finland
Now that the Palestinians have regained "their" land who will they blame for the same old problems they've always had? The Israelis? The Arabs? The United States? Maybe they'll realize that like many others before them, in other countries, you are responsible for what you do and don't do. Maybe the Palestinians should understand the history of "their" land or they'll be doomed to repeat it.
Jon Schuller, Charlotte, NC, USA
The pullout from Gaza is positive. However the control of all routes to and from Gaza by Israel is negative. Negative actions have negative consequences. Why give the Palestinians a good reason to carry out more attacks?
No more excuses. The Palestinian Authority must take responsibility and act now to disarm the violent militants among them. Failure to do so will result in Gaza becoming a paradise for terrorist groups, and result in even more horrific bloodshed for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Victor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Israeli withdrawal is long overdue but it is not likely to help since they are maintaining a stranglehold on Gaza. How can it be that regimes who defy UN resolutions are considered bad yet Israel has done just that for many years and is not punished?
NC, London, UK
Palestinians seem to be running out of excuses for making hardly any progress. Now that Egyptian forces are stepping in to jointly control southwest borders, another excuse will become invalid - that Gaza cannot get any help from other states because Israel controls all borders. Israeli message is clear & fair this time: Set up a functional state, and control terror when left on your own, and only then will talks about other territories be possible. If Palestinians can't do it in Gaza, how they expect to do it in larger territories they claim? It takes a lot of work and time to develop a state.
Vladimir, Beograd, Serbia
This is not a withdrawal, as long as Israel keeps controlling who is entering or leaving, as long as the Palestinians cannot trade freely with bordering Egypt, as long as the airport cannot be used freely, and as long as the fishermen are limited to a ridiculous 4 miles strip unless they want to be shot at. This is suffocation replacing occupation.
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is mere tokenism. They continue to enlarge Jewish settlements in the illegally occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan. They have sacrificed Gaza so that they have a chance of hanging on to the rest. It must not be allowed to happen. International attention must not be distracted from this. The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan must all be returned to Palestinian and Syrian hands.
Life will only improve for Gazans if the militants can restrain themselves and if Israel allows the border to open to trade. These are big 'ifs'. Also I doubt that the withdrawal will kick start the stalled peace process. That would be most unlikely for a move that was designed to stall the peace process even further while the occupation of the rest of the West Bank was extended. Sadly I think the scene is now set for more violent confrontations.
Charles Tyler, Sydney, Australia
The big question to me is how will this generation of Palestinians influence the thoughts and actions of the next generation. They have everything to gain and everything to lose. Whether they experience praise or blame depends on how they behave collectively as a nation.
Peter, Boston, USA
It is good that the Israelis have withdrawn from Gaza, it is a fantastic beginning, but that is all it is, It is difficult to imagine how the Palestinians will manage to make Gaza into a profitable land without the rest of their lands returned, It is like some one stole your home then gave you back the lounge and expect praise. It is a beginning and I hope it continues so that both nations can be peaceful with sufficient resources to live.
Pauline, Herne Bay UK
The Palestinians choose to celebrate through looting and destruction of the synagogues. This is an act of anarchy and a population out of control, not the response from those who have had several months to contemplate what to do next.
Micky, Netanya, Israel
Will life improve in Gaza? It all depends. The EU, the US and some rich Arab nations are going to contribute billions of pounds to help the Palestinians. Will this money be used wisely? It all depends. Will the Palestinians ever stop saying that it's all the fault of the occupation (whereas before the 1970s it was just about the existence of Israel on formerly Arab lands)? As for the peace process, we need to give it time; a lot of time.
Bertrand, Lyon, France
There will be no lasting peace until American foreign policy changes to deliver justice for the Palestinians and stops rewarding Israeli injustice. The withdrawal from Gaza brings hope but it is only a very small part of the problem. When Palestine controls it's own borders, airspace and sea lanes perhaps the militants will have nothing left to fight for except compensation from those who have stood by and allowed this criminal occupation to go on for so long.
William Davies, London. UK
Jews have lived for centuries peacefully in Muslim countries. Also nowadays many Palestinians live peacefully in Israel. Why these people have to be artificially separated is beyond me. German, South African, etc history suggests that this is not a sustainable strategy.
Gerry, Berlin, Germany
The onus is now squarely on the Palestinians. As we say in America, it's time to put up or shut up. They are in control of their land now. Are they going to be a rogue state or a member of the international community? The choice is theirs. The responsibility is theirs. I hope for the best.
Zach Harris, Chicago, Illinois
Our complete withdrawal from Gaza is a truly historic move by our government, symbolizing the change of heart and mind in Israeli society. But will it be greeted with a change of mind on the Palestinian side?
It was a demographic motive that has driven Israel out of Gaza, they would have us believe it was their love for peace, this is not the road map. It was a tactic made by Israel, the political momentum and the international will needs to apply pressure on Israel to comply with the road map and the UN resolutions, also pressure on Arabs needs to be applied to help create the Palestinian state and end all violence. Violence will stop once the causes that gave birth to violence have been removed
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan/Swindon
As synagogues are being burnt by Palestinian mobs in Gaza I cannot help but feel that we Israelis have not seen the end of that nightmare. Gaza is going to become the largest and most dangerous terror nest in the world. If the international community does not help to restrain anarchy and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip by forcefully helping the Palestinians to clamp down on extremists, there will be widespread death and destruction in that area on both sides of the new border.
Ben Reich, Tel Aviv, Israel
Life will become better for Palestinians but it will be a long and painstaking process, since they have to start from rock bottom. All parties will have to grow up to the challenge as to what to do with the Gaza Strip: how to improve the economy and security within its own territory and above all how to continue negotiations with the Israeli government. We must not be deceived by the recent disengagement: A fully functional Palestinian state is a must for long-term peace in the region.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
With Israel forging ahead with the road map it is clearly time for the Palestinian Authority to take a first step towards peace and improving the lot of their people by disarming the Islamic terror organisations that oppress the people of Palestine.
Tom, London, UK
The Israelis did as they promised, now it's time for the Palestinians to live in peace side by side (with the Israelis) and destroy their terror networks of Hamas and the others.
Yed, London, UK
This withdrawal should have been done 40 years ago. Israel should not be rewarded for it and should always be reminded that the West Bank (including Jerusalem) is still occupied. Nobody now talks about compensating Palestinians for the land and water that were stolen from them for the past 40 years. Where is justice?
Mohammad AbuSalah, Swindon, UK
It is a brave move by Israel, but I fear that some Palestinians will simply view it as a sign of weakness and justification for further acts of terror.
I think this is a great step for Israel. I think Israel should have withdrawn years ago. I can only hope that both sides can be at peace and that the Arab nations can respect Israel for the country that it has become.
Fiona, London, UK
It is a step in the right direction. But Jewish synagogues and cemeteries should be protected and due respect shown to them.
Ahmed M Ibrahim, Bangalore, India
In itself, the Gaza withdrawal, will not bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. What is needed, and what will not happen, is for the politicians on both sides to accept that peace can only be achieved through mutual compromise. Presently, neither side are prepared to modify their land claims sufficiently to satisfy the other.
Martin Philip, London
Life will improve a little for a short time, at least until Palestinian elections. The peace process depends now on the Palestinians. Will they move towards peace even a little? The whole world is watching.
John, Canadian in S. Korea
When a neighbour finally gives back the lawn mower he took from you many years back....he is not someone to feel sorry for or praise. He (the Israelis) are only doing what should have been done from the start. And...they are being compensated up to $500,000 per family? Meanwhile, a Palestinian family is surviving on barely $25 per month and no basic services, health care or schools. Something is upside down in this equation.
Diane, Cleveland USA
Shalom, Salaam, Peace, that is the message the Israelis are sending by withdrawing from government, hopefully the Palestinians, especially the people get that message loud and clear.
Dan, Dekalb, USA
Israel declared on Sunday end to military rule in the Gaza Strip, clearing the way for the last troops to leave after more than 38 years of occupation. I was praying for this day to come and I hope this will bring peace and security to the Middle East.
Faisal Ibrahim, London, England
I think it will influence in the positive way on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. We could see already that withdrawal from Lebanon brought much more peace near to the borders of the conflicting sides.
Daniel Brotskiy, Tel Aviv, Israel
Life will take time to improve because the PLO and the various Islamic groups will be fighting for possession and control thereby endangering the lives of the poor masses.
Goodluck Mfonnom, Port Harcourt, Nigeria
How can life improve when you have to start from a barren land with no other forms of control at all? Withdrawing from one illegally occupied land whilst continuously expanding in other similar ones may kick-start the peace process, but will not actually achieve it. True peace can only be realised when all illegally occupied lands are returned with full autonomy. Otherwise, it's just another political melodrama by the Israelis. All this media publicity on the withdrawal is no big deal.
I doubt life will improve much in the Gaza strip at all. The Israelis were the ones who developed the Gaza, and with their withdrawal, much of the value will go with them. I hope that the Palestinians prove me wrong and build a great self-sustaining nation, but if they couldn't without the Gaza (or even with the Gaza in the years prior to that) then I can't see them doing it now. I only hope that they don't blame Israel again if they fail in their own efforts.
Ian Liew, Malaysia
Life can improve in the Gaza Strip only if Palestinians and Israelis stop the fighting and become more open minded for the future of their countries.
Mario, Delray Beach, United States