On this day 16 years ago, 12 September 2005, the last Israeli occupation soldiers left the Gaza Strip and evacuated the settlers who had occupied its land since 1967.
During that time, Israel occupied 34 per cent of Gaza's land and controlled the most important fertile agricultural lands, groundwater and the coast. Some 9,000 illegal settlers were housed in 25 illegale settlements in the enclave.
However, when the Second Intifada erupted in 2000, the illegal settlements in Gaza were subjected to fierce resistance, which led to Israel declaring its intention to withdraw from the enclave and dismantle its settlements. On 15 August 2005, Israel began its 'disengagement' from the Gaza Strip.
On this day: Remembering Israel's 'disengagement' from Gaza
Immediately after the withdrawal, the Palestinian government paved the way for re-allocating the occupied parts of Gaza for communal use. Streets and areas were renamed, the names of the illegal settlements removed, and agricultural land repurposed so as to provide for up to 80 per cent of the vegetable and fruit needs of the residents of Gaza.
The land and infrastructure in those illegal settlements were also repurposed to serve the entirety of Gaza – from water desalination plants, establishment of hospitals and health centres, letting of large residential buildings such as Hamad Town in Khan Yunis, and educational centres such as Al-Aqsa University, University College and Al-Azhar.
To date, however, the Strip remains occupied and besieged by occupation forces who limit the movement of essentials, goods and people in and out of the enclave.