GAZA, Palestine, August 23, 2005
President Mahmoud Abbas asserted that the credit of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip and northern West Bank goes to the Palestinians who were killed, wounded and imprisoned during the decades of struggle for independence.

Abbas, who was addressing a gathering of physically-challenged individuals rallied by the National Committee for the Disabled Affairs, said that the injuries and disabilities they carried were medals of honor that are paid today by with the exit of the last Israeli settler from Gaza Strip.

“The credit [for the withdrawal] goes to the martyrs, prisoners, and first and last to you present here in front of us. Thank God that you lived to see with your own eyes the fruits of your struggle and sacrifices for the nation and your children’s future,” President Abbas told the gathering.

The President also added that on Tuesday the evacuation of Israeli settlers would begin in parts of the northern West Bank, referring to it as the beginning of the withdrawal from the rest of the Palestinian lands. “We know that you’re a group representing your category in society, and through you we say that it is you who paid the price and today we see this price embodied on the land of Palestine.”

Concerning the disability law, President Abbas declared that five percent of all government positions would be set aside for the physically-challenged individuals, and that he would work to achieve this ratio as a minimum limit of jobs.

“This is an established law and we must enforce it, even on those who refuse it,” the President stressed.

In another development, President Abbas received a phone call yesterday evening from the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, the presidency’s spokesman, told reporters that the President and Prime Minister Sharon discussed the latest developments of the Israeli withdrawal and evacuation of illegal Israeli settlements.

Abu Rudeina added that the President has stressed the necessity of continuing the peace process, and the Palestinian National Authority’s commitment to it in order to reach a just and comprehensive peace leading to security and stability for everyone.

In the meantime, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday morning that during the same phone call, the President and the Israeli premiere agreed on meeting soon.