The Israeli government decided on Sunday to keep Gaza synagogues intact in a 14-2 vote on Sunday, and approved in an earlier cabinet meeting to end the military rule in the Gaza Strip.

The two ministers who voted in favor of leveling the synagogues are labor ministers Ophir Pines-Paz and Haim Ramon, Labor MK Dalia Itzik abstained.

Also, the cabinet approved the military withdrawal from the Philadilphi Route along the Gaza-Egypt border, while Egyptian and Palestinian forces began their deployment on Saturday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Knesset before voting on the Synagogues fate on Sunday that he apposes the demolition of the synagogues and quoted his Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz who called the cabinet to avert the destruction of the synagogues.

Sharon referred to the synagogues buildings as “houses that were used as synagogues”; especially after Israel removed all the sacred objects from them.

Also, Rabbis from Israel and abroad called on the government to leave the synagogues in tact.

Israeli government figures who support the demolition of the synagogues claimed that they “don’t want the Palestinian to desecrate or demolish them”, while ministers who apposed the demolition said that “Jews should not be the ones who level synagogues, regardless of what Palestinians do”.  

Meanwhile, Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz sharply criticized the ministers who “changed their mind” on the demolition, and decided suddenly to appose it, and described their backtracking as embarrassing.

Mazuz said that the government voted two weeks ago to demolish the synagogues, and defended its opinion in front of the Israeli High Court of Justice, “Nothing has changes since then”, he added.

Also, Mazuz claimed that if Israel withdraws leaving the synagogues in tact, there will be what he described as a “tsunami of Hamas”, who will not leave any synagogue preserved, according to Mazuz.

Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom said that he voted against the demolishing of the synagogues because Jewish leaders from all over the world warned him that razing the synagogues in the Gaza Strip, could be a dangerous precedent justifying the demolition of Jewish holy places by foreign governments

“Jews do not destroy synagogues”, Shalom stated, “I hope that the Palestinian Authority will be able to protect them, if they fail to do so, the whole world will see what we are dealing with”.

Also on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved the military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, ending military rule which was installed 38 years ago following the Six-day War.

Meanwhile, an Israeli source reported that the Gaza handover ceremony was cancelled after Palestinian officials refuse to attend the ceremony.

Palestinian interior ministry spokesman, Tawfik Abu Khousa, reported on Sunday that the P.A decided to refrain fro participating of handover ceremonies at the Eretz crossing in protest to the Israeli cabinet decision to keep the Gaza synagogues in tact.

The handover ceremonies were slated to be carried out at 15hours on Sunday, at the Eretz crossing which separates between Gaza and Israel. 

“Israel decided the keep the synagogues in the Gaza Strip, and hold us responsible for them”, Abu Khousa said, “We will not agree to be part of an Israeli decision”.

Also, Abu Khousa added that the Palestinian Authority finalized its preparations to control the evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip, and is ready to uphold its security responsibilities over the evacuated areas.

The P.A advised the Palestinian not to enter the evacuated settlements and military camps until its specialized teams examine the evacuated areas and make sure that there are no mines or explosives there.