Israel Completes Gaza Withdrawal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 21, 2009 7:48 AM CST
An Israeli armored vehicle maneuvers in a staging area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Wednesday Jan. 21, 2009.   (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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(Newser) – The last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip before dawn today, the military said, as Israel dispatched its foreign minister to Europe in a bid to rally international support to end arms smuggling into the Hamas-ruled territory. The timing of the pullout reflected Israeli hopes to defuse the Gaza crisis before Barack Obama took office. The military said troops remain massed on the Israeli side of the border and are poised to take action if militants violate a fragile 3-day ceasefire.

The troops' exit marked the end of an Israeli offensive that ravaged Gaza and left a total of 1,284 Palestinians dead and 4,336 wounded, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. The rights group said 894 of the dead were civilians. Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni headed to Brussels today, hoping to clinch a deal committing the EU to contribute forces, ships, and technology to anti-smuggling operations. The US signed a similar anti-smuggling deal last week.