Ramallah, West Bank — Thousands of flag-waving Palestinians set off fireworks and danced in the streets on Thursday to celebrate a United Nations General Assembly vote granting de facto recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state.
In Bethlehem, the bells of the Church of the Nativity peeled in honour of the vote, and thousands of people crowded around to watch a live broadcast of President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech in New York projected on the concrete of Israel’s separation wall.
“I feel we are living a historic day, the birth of the state of Palestine,” said Suha Awadallah, wearing a black and white keffiyeh, in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital.
In a rare show of unity, Abbas’s Islamist rivals Hamas, who have ruled Gaza since a brief civil war in 2007, let supporters of the president’s Fatah movement hold rallies there.
In the West Bank towns of Hebron, Nablus and Jenin, as well as Ramallah, people gathered on rooftops and balconies, cheering patriotic songs blaring from speakers.
The crowds were boosted by last-minute declarations of support from west European countries, adding more weight to the victory in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, which upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s observer status to a “non-member state”.
“Now we can drag Israel to international courts for crimes committed against Palestinians in Gaza, this is important for us,” Mohammad Issa in Ramallah said, as he listened to Abbas’s speech.
U.N. recognition would allow the Palestinians to take action against Israel at the International Court of Justice on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes the court would have jurisdiction over.
Nasser Abdel Hadi, owner of a famous Ramallah restaurant, baked a massive pizza in the red, white, green and black colours of the Palestinian flag.