United Nations: The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine, a victory decades in the making for the Palestinians after years of occupation and war.
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation, as the final vote was cast.
The long-sought victory for the Palestinians was also an unprecedented rebuke to the United States and Israel, which were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status to "non-member state" from "entity," like the Vatican.
The assembly voted 138-9 with 41 abstentions for the resolution approving the upgrade. Nine countries, including Israel, the United States and Canada voted against it.
Speaking before the vote, the acting Palestinian Authority Chief, Mahmoud Abbas told the General Assembly that it was "being asked today to issue the birth certificate of Palestine "
Having earned the observer non-member status, Palestinians enjoy access to UN agencies and the International Criminal Court where they could file complaints against Israel. The upgrade also allows the Palestinians to participate in debates at the UN and improve their chances of joining UN agencies.
The United States and Israel have spared no means for the past two years to stymie the Palestinians efforts towards upgrading Palestines status at the UN, arguing that it is only through negotiations with Israel that Palestinian statehood ambitions can yield.
The US blocked Palestines full membership bid at the UN Security Council last year, using its veto power.
Following the Thursday vote, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice told the assembly, "Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it."
In 2010, Israel broke down the talks after refusing to extend a moratorium on its settlement activities on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Hundreds of Palestinians have poured onto the streets of the Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank to celebrate the upgrade.
"I'm happy they declared the state even though it's only a moral victory. There are a lot of sharks out there, but it feels good," said 39-year-old Rashid al-Kor.
"I feel so good, I cannot describe my feelings, it's as if we reached the end of a dark tunnel. With a Palestinian state, we are now united as a people and a leadership," Palestinian-American Laila Jaman noted. Agencies
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