Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians must protect and rebuild the Gaza Strip to set an example to the world now that Israel is pulling out after 38 years of occupation.

President Abbas told hundreds of exuberant, flag-waving Palestinians Friday their sacrifice brought about what he called a joyous occasion. Mr. Abbas promised his people freedom, jobs and homes, and encouraged them to refrain from violence.

He spoke at Gaza's International Airport, which has been closed since Israel bulldozed the runways when the Palestinian uprising began five years ago. Mr. Abbas says the airport will re-open and once again become a gateway for Palestinian prosperity.

Israeli troops completed the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlement of Gadid Friday, removing about 90 people from one of the last pockets of resistance to the government-ordered withdrawal from the Palestinian territory.

The operation went off peacefully, in contrast to Thursday's evictions at two other settlements, Neve Dekalim and Kfar Darom, where resisters threw objects and chemicals at Israeli soldiers.

Israeli forces are to resume withdrawal operations on Sunday after the Jewish sabbath.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.