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Palestine's Hamas lauds, Israel rejects UN vote against settlements

Palestine's Hamas movement has welcomed the Security Council vote demanding a halt to Israeli settlements in the occupied territory. Israel rejected the measure, which was approved after the US refrained from vetoing it.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, said Saturday the UN Security Council vote reiterated the international community's rejection of Israeli policy.

"Hamas appreciates the position of the countries that voted in the Security Council for the right of the Palestinian people (to live) on their land," said Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum.

"We salute this important evolution in international positions," he added.

Militants associated with Hamas have fought three wars with Israel since 2008, while Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for around a decade.

UN Sicherheitsrat Resolution zu Siedlungspolitik Israels (picture-alliance/Zumapress/A. Lohr-Jones)

The UN resolution was passed after the United States abstained from voting

Break in traditional US-Israeli ties

While Hamas did not mention the US, the vote would not have gone through had Washington decided to veto it. But the US abstained from the UN vote, allowing the measure to pass by a vote of 14 in favor in the 15-member council.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that "continued settlement building undermines Israel's security."

The resolution had been put forward for a vote on Friday by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal - one day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and US President-elect Donald Trump.

After the resolution was passed, Trump said that upon his inauguration, "things will be different" in US-UN relations.

Trump has spoken out in support of Israeli settlements before. The Obama administration, by contrast, views settlements as a hindrance to peace efforts. A senior US official told Reuters that the Obama administration had not been involved in any part of the UN resolution going forward following Israeli accusations saying that the United States was pushing for the initiative.

Settlement construction in the West Bank has skyrocketed since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in 2009, with 15,000 additional Israeli Jewish settlers moving into homes on the West Bank in 2016 alone.

US Republican Senator John McCain commented that the US' abstention from the vote made the US "complicit in this outrageous attack against Israel."

Reaction from Israel

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu squarely rejected the vote in a statement:

"Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms," the statement said.

"Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution."

Israel's ambassador to the UN had earlier called on the United States to continue to "stand by" Israel over the resolution designed to bring an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

"We call on the United States to stand by us and we expect our greatest ally to continue with its long-standing policy and to veto this resolution," Danny Danon said in a statement.

A 'historic resolution'

The Palestinian presidency meanwhile commented that the UN vote amounted to a "big blow" to Israel, calling this a "historic day."

Jordan also welcomed the UN Security Council resolution.

"This historic decision expresses the consensus of the international community on the illegality of Israeli settlements and reaffirms the Palestinian people's historic right (to live) in Jerusalem and its historic lands," Jordan's information minister Mohammad al-Momani said Saturday, adding that the resolution reinforced his country's historic position on the need for a two state solution.

Dawood Shihab of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the resolution "is a clear condemnation of the (Israeli) occupation policies and its aggression against the Palestinian people," adding that "it is a Palestinian victory."

Watch video 02:04

US abstains from UN Israeli settlement vote

shs, ss /rc  (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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