PA Takes over Gaza with Ceremony Boycott

Israel Sunday afternoon was forced to unilaterally turn over to the Palestinian Authority (PA) responsibility for the Gaza region, the same way it expelled Jewish residents from the communities.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 18:18

The lack of a bi-lateral agreement ostensibly was prompted by Sunday morning's Cabinet decision not to destroy 21 synagogues in Gush Katif, but the PA already had said it would boycott ceremonies scheduled for Sunday afternoon as a way to protest the closing of the Rafiah border crossing.

Israel has closed the passage between Gaza and Egypt for six months until security improvements are completed.

The IDF held its own departure ceremony at 6 p.m. and IDF vehicles began to exit from the areas with a long convoy of vehicles that is expected to last into the night. Israel has made it clear it will return to Gaza if terrorists continue to attack Israel. "We have mortars too," IDF Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, told a Knesset panel last week.

The changeover in authority represents a severe test for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who faces a rival de facto Hamas authority in Gaza. Islamic Jihad terrorists also have raised their profile and staged a full-scale training exercise Saturday night toward celebrating what they called the success of terrorist attacks in forcing Israel to withdraw.

The PA is receiving approximately 50 greenhouses left behind in the community of Atzmona and more than 150 public buildings, including 21 synagogues. But Arabs fear that the departure of Israeli authority will leave them worse off. They wonder "whether the Israeli departure represents real liberation or will merely aggravate woes such as lawlessness, factional fighting, corruption and rampant unemployment," the Associated Press reported.

Immediate benefits will be few for the local residents, many of whom used to work for Jewish farmers in Gush Katif. Sweet water aquifers will come under control of the PA, but demand is likely to cause the same salt water contamination that already plagues Arab cities in Gaza.