Jailed Palestinian legislator Marwan Barghouthi, secretary of the Fateh High Committee in the West Bank, called on Palestinians both in Palestine and in exile to celebrate the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which will be concluded by mid-September 2005.

“This withdrawal was achieved by resistance and sacrifice”, Barghouthi said, “This victory comes to us through the sacrifices of the dead, the wounded, the detained and the exiled”.

Barghouthi, was a leading candidate in last year’s Palestinian Presidential campaign until he dropped out of the race, wrote in his statement that “every Palestinian should feel that he participated in this liberation”, adding that it comes “after decades of struggle and steadfastness”.

Barghouthi also stated that Palestinians should take this opportunity to increase international and regional efforts to end the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, “If this cannot be achieved through diplomatic means, then the resistance and Intifada will continue until the occupation ends”.

Also, Barghouthi stated that all Palestinian political detainees currently being held by Israel should be freed, and that the Palestinian Authority should conduct regional and international efforts to end the detentions.  “Detainees living in liberated areas should be freed as soon as the army withdraws”, Barghouthi said, “International Law and the Geneva Conventions call for releasing the detainees of any area from which the occupation army evacuates”.

Barghouthi, himself a political detainee held since 2003 by Israeli authorities on suspicion of collaboration and participation in the planning of a number of suicide bombings, is a leader in the Palestinian Fateh party and one of the founders of Fateh’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade.