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Israel completes Gaza troop withdrawal - military says

ISRAELI forces completed a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip today, three days after Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires, a military spokesman said.

"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," the spokesman said.

Israel had withdrawn most of its forces before US President Barack Obama was inaugurated yesterday, in a move analysts saw as an attempt not to cloud the start of a new era in a key alliance.

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, endorsed Israel's right to defend itself against rocket fire by Gaza's ruling Hamas Islamists.

Hamas, announcing a ceasefire on Sunday hours after an Israeli-declared truce went into effect, had demanded Israeli troops quit the territory within a week.

Israeli attacks in a 22-day Gaza offensive killed some 1,300 Palestinians and made thousands homeless. Gaza medical officials said the Palestinian dead included at least 700 civilians. Israel says hundreds of militants died.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by cross-border rocket fire, were killed in the conflict.


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