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Hamas, Jihad leaders welcome UN recognition of Palestine

Nov. 30, 2012 2:58 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 3, 2012 7:12 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Top Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials on Friday welcomed the recognition of Palestine as a non-member state at the United Nations, the signature move of their political rival Fatah.

Since Israel's eight-day war on Gaza ended last week, the long-warring factions have made a number of concessions, raising hopes they might reconcile their separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, had rejected the UN bid, which is a key part of the diplomatic strategy of Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas.

Along with fellow Islamists Islamic Jihad, Hamas softened its stance after the Gaza war, which was regarded locally as a success for the parties' military wings.

Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that the vote was a culmination of Gaza's victory and an affirmation of Palestinian steadfastness.

Addressing a rally in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners in Gaza City, Haniyeh said he had been following the progress of the bid, and thanked the 138 countries that voted in favor on Thursday night.

He said the movement welcomed the bid, while continuing its policy of not recognizing Israel and "not giving up an inch of Palestinian land."

The Secretary-General of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shalah, echoed Haniyeh's comments, calling the vote a "historic moment."

The acceptance of Palestine as non-member state in the UN will return Palestine to its real people, he said.

But the movement also added its caveat, with Shalah saying that the bid should not "remove a large part of Palestinians' rights under the banner of negotiations and international legitimacy."

Islamic Jihad and Hamas accuse the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank of giving up on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes they were expelled from in Israel's 1948 war for independence.

Both parties refer to Israel as part of Palestine, although senior Hamas officials including politburo chief Khalid Mashaal say they seek a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, in line with Abbas' policy.

Mashaal said the UN vote would "unify Palestinian national efforts" as part of the reconciliation process with Abbas's Fatah movement.

"I told Abu Mazen (Abbas) we want this move to be part of a national Palestinian strategy," Mashaal said in an interview with Reuters.

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