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Palestinians Celebrate After Israeli Troops Leave Gaza

Gaza broke out in wild celebration as Israel pulled out its last troops and ended its 38-year presence there.

As the Israelis left, Palestinians rushed into the now-abandoned Jewish settlements.

They came waving flags, shouting and dancing. Hooded militants also came - showing off their guns, taking credit for the Israeli pullout and vowing to continue the fight.

Many Palestinians headed to the seashore, to beaches that had been part of the settlements and off-limits to Palestinians.

In the south, crowds climbed over walls and through barbed wire separating Gaza from neighboring Egypt. Many met up with relatives on the other side, some of whom they had not seen in the past five years of violence.

Egyptian security officials said they were allowing the crossing as a "humanitarian gesture." But, one Palestinian was killed by gunfire in the chaos along the boundary.

Amid the celebrations, there was also plenty of scavenging as people picked up whatever remained in the settlements. Some youths also set fire to empty synagogues, which had been left behind intact.

Palestinian journalist Khalil Assali was on the scene and told VOA people were coming from all over Gaza to get into the settlements.

"It's still the best show in town is to go to the settlements and try to destroy as much as you can in these settlements because it's a symbol of hatred and a symbol of humiliation," he said.

Despite the fact that it was not a very smooth handover, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it a day of joy and happiness. He said it was joyous that the long Israeli rule in Gaza had come to an end. He welcomed the taste of freedom, but also cautioned Palestinians they still have a long way to go to achieve statehood.