But the occupation not ended
Palestinians mark 16th anniversary of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza
The Palestinian people regard this anniversary as a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, because Israel has never evacuated a territory it unilaterally captured since its occupation of historic Palestine in 1948.
Sixteen years after Israeli occupation's unilateral evacuation of about 8,500 Jewish residents from Gaza, the aftermath of the "disengagement" in August 2005 continues to enrage Israeli society.
Within Gaza, there is nothing for debate: the previous 16 years have been a complete disaster. During that period, Gaza's roughly 2 million residents have been subjected to a civil war between Palestinian factions and four wars with the occupation, which have resulted the death of thousands in Gaza and the destruction of their homes.
Sharon, aged 76, experienced a stroke and went into a coma less than five months after the withdrawal. He died eight years later, never regaining consciousness to realize the full extent of his initiative's ramifications.
He believed it would radically alter Israel's security and how it was regarded by foreigners, ushering in a new era in which land might be exchanged for peace, with the possibility of a similar process in the occupied West Bank.
The Islamist faction Hamas, however, won parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territory four months following the withdrawal. A few months later, a Hamas militant kidnapped an Israeli soldier stationed on the Gaza border, prompting an Israeli response.
By the summer of 2007, Hamas had won a civil war over Fatah's armed wing and taken complete control of Gaza. Throughout 2008, rocket and mortar attacks on Israel persisted, leading to a new battle in December and January 2009, which killed over 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, making it the deadliest fighting in the region since 1967.
Another conflict broke out in 2012, and yet another in 2014 with an estimated 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis killed in the worst of all. More killing is expected, according to Israeli generals, who say it may be required to "mow the lawn" in Gaza every few years.
The last war this year 2021 killed 250 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers.
Despite Israel's departure from Gaza in 2005, the United Nations, international human rights organizations, and the majority of states and legal observers still regard the territory to be occupied by the occupation.