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Hamas Pledges Calm as Gaza Pullout Begins

Slideshow of Gaza Pullout (Flash)

Israeli and Palestinian security forces are on high alert as Israel's pullout from Gaza officially gets under way. Palestinian factional leaders, including Hamas say they also want to see a calm and orderly withdrawal.

Palestinian officials have organized some festivities to mark Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. There have been a few rallies and plenty of flag-waving, but in general life has gone on as normal.

There has been visible presence of Palestinian security forces on the streets as troops were put on high alert and moved into position close to the Jewish enclaves. They and nearby Israeli forces are to guard against potential attacks by Palestinian militants during the withdrawal.

There has been concern of how militant groups, such as Hamas might react during the withdrawal. Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri told VOA, the various factions have reached an understanding with the Palestinian Authority to work together during the withdrawal and coordinate any action. He also promised calm.

"I think if the Israelis leave in peace with no attacks, nobody will attack them and they will be withdrawing smoothly and quietly," said Mr. Zuhri.

Palestinians across the board welcome the Israeli pull-out, but Sami Abu Zuhri says it would not have happened without the continued pressure from militants. "This [the withdrawal] is a big incident [event], a historic incident," he added. "It came as a result of resistance and not negotiations.

The Hamas spokesman says it marks the first time the Israelis are giving up settlements and ending their occupation in at least a portion of Palestinian land.

For Palestinians, however, Israel's withdrawal from Gaza is only the first step - they want an Israeli pullout from the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well - areas they want for their future independent state.

Hamas has already promised continued resistance to achieve that. Sami Abu Zuhri would not say outright if that meant further violence. The Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas hopes those same aims can be achieved through negotiations.