Syria praises Palestinians for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza Strip

Israel has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip because of "Palestinian resistance," Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah said Monday.

"The Israeli withdrawal is not because of the good will of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon," Dakhlallah said in a statement published by the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

It is "a military retreat that makes one feel comfortable about the ability of the Palestinian people to reap the first fruits of their legitimate struggle," the minister added.

Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip on Monday, ending 38 years of military rule over the territory. Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas, have been vying with the Palestinian Authority to take credit for Israel's pullout.

Speaking to a delegation of Italian journalists in Damascus, Dakhlallah said the suffering of the Palestinians is the "biggest in modern history." He referred to the millions of Palestinians displaced by the wars with Israel in 1948 and 1967 who now live with their descendants in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

He reiterated Syria's call for negotiations with Israel, saying "Syria calls for dialogue to solve problems among states."

Israel has rejected resuming negotiations with Syria until it clamps down on Palestinian militants on its territory, AP reported.

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