Massive explosions boomed across the territory on Friday from dawn, drowning out the sound of the Muslim call to pre-dawn prayers, as troops dynamited some of the last remaining buildings.

The Mor bridge, built to separate the now-departed Jewish settlers and Palestinian traffic in southern Gaza, was dismantled and hauled away by crane.

A series of watchtowers which have come to symbolise the Israeli occupation in Gaza were reduced to rubble.

The army also blew up its liaison headquarters with the Palestinian Authority in the northern Gaza Strip, military sources said.

The main Abu Holi checkpoint was closed, cutting the link between northern and southern Gaza, as the wreckers continued their work in the final hours before the start of the Jewish sabbath.

The departure of Israeli troops
has been brought forward

"Everything should be packed up by the end of the day," a military source said, as the army awaited a Sunday cabinet meeting when ministers should rubber-stamp the departure of the soldiers.

Troops had been due to leave next Thursday but their departure is being brought forward on the recommendation of Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, with troops becoming targets of stone-throwing Palestinian youths.

Approval

Mofaz has approved plans for the departure which will mean the troops take no more than 24 hours to leave Gaza, with a farewell ceremony expected on Sunday evening before soldiers pile into tanks and armoured vehicles.

However he admitted on Friday that the timetable could be delayed by his order for troops to suspend the demolition of synagogues in the old settlements.

"I decided to suspend the demolitions until the government takes a decision on Sunday," he said.

"It could mean the withdrawal is delayed by one day but that is acceptable because on everything else we are ahead of schedule," Mofaz added.

Although the withdrawal has largely taken place free of violence, Israeli officials have warned they will not hesitate to hit back hard if they are attacked as they head out of Gaza.