Archive for December, 2012

Gazans rally with exiled Hamas chief

December 08, 2012

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas vowed to continue fighting Israel Saturday, as hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Gazans turned out to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary.

Khaled Mashaal’s visit to the Palestinian territory — a first in his lifetime of exile — underscores Hamas’ rising clout and regional acceptance since its eight-day conflict with Israel last month. At the main stage in Gaza City, a roaring crowd greeted Mashaal and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who emerged from a door built into a large model of a rocket fired at Israeli cities during the recent fighting.

Hamas’ green dominated the gathering, where some children wore military uniforms and others carried guns. Masked gunmen holding automatic rifles flanked the podium where Mashaal gave a fiery speech. “We are not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way,” Mashaal said, referring to holy war. “We cannot recognize Israel’s legitimacy.”

Mashaal said he would continue to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails — referring to a swap last year where an abducted Israeli soldier was exchanged for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

The 56-year-old Mashaal, who left the West Bank as a child and now leads Hamas from the Gulf state of Qatar, entered Gaza on Friday via Egypt. Hamas has received a boost from the political ascension of its parent movement, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, in the wake of last year’s Arab Spring revolts — especially in Egypt.

It has also upped its profile as master of the Gaza Strip, leading it through the bloodiest round of fighting with Israel in four years and coming to a cease-fire arrangement in talks brokered by Egypt.

Hamas claimed victory in the conflict after holding its own despite airstrikes and maintaining an almost constant barrage of rocket attacks on Israeli cities. The Nov. 21 cease-fire stipulated Israel would stop targeting militants. That, along with unprecedented support from Egypt, allowed Mashaal to make the visit without fear of Israeli assassination, which he has narrowly escaped in the past.

Israel, the U.S. and European Union list Hamas as a terrorist organization. Israel is now holding indirect talks with the group as a result of the cease-fire arrangement.

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Lebanese women fight revolution through football

by Jens Juul Petersen

04 October 2011

Beirut – Lebanese women are fighting a silent revolution on the football field through the popular club program of the Cross Cultures Project Association (CCPA) in Lebanon, which provides educational activities for those in post-conflict countries.

Farah and Mirna are two young women on an important mission: they want to change Lebanese society by promoting gender equality and giving young girls the opportunities they didn’t have themselves.

“We are here at the CCPA seminar because we want to change something,” says 28-year-old Mirna. Together with her friend Farah, Mirna is taking part in a seminar in Beirut for volunteers in the CCPA Popular Club program. The two school teachers want to establish their own sports club for girls in their hometown. “There is nothing like this in our town. All sports clubs are for boys and men, but we want to make a club for girls – and only girls!” says Farah, who has been living in a little town in South Lebanon her entire life and is fed up with how her society views and treats girls and women. “We have had no opportunities for sports or physical activities. It has been very frustrating,” she says.

CCPA Lebanon is focusing on bringing together a mixed group of children who play in the same club regardless of gender, talent, social standing, religious and ethnic distinctions. The CCPA popular club project is working to support the development of an active civil society based on diversity and equality, where females are encouraged to take an active part in order to promote gender equality and non-discrimination.

The idea of popular clubs for girls is revolutionary – especially in the south. The two women’s hometown is located in a conservative area around the city of Tyre, where cultural mores have made it difficult for CCPA Lebanon to organize sports activities for girls and women. The local CCPA coordinator Adel Saad has experienced how complicated it is to attract females to sports activities, not only in the south but all over the country: “This is Lebanon, and it is unusual for girls to participate in sports outside school. We need to change this, but it should be done slowly,” says Adel.

“There is an idea here that girls who wear the hijab (headscarf) don’t play sports,” Mirna adds. “Men think that we are not interested and don’t like being active, but this is so wrong. We know many, many women who are like us.” Adds Farah, “I want to change the impression that girls who wear hijab can’t do anything except sit at home and be quiet. By playing sports we can change this and express ourselves!”

Involving women in sports is only a small step for better conditions and equality for women in Lebanon, but it is a clever way to start changing society. In this very volatile country everything tends to be politicized  but sports are seen as far removed from politics and therefore safe. Mirna and Farah chose to take active part in society through CCPA Lebanon because of the reputation of the organisation in the area.

Many people in Lebanon are not ready to deal with strong and independent women doing sports. Even these two women had to struggle before going to the CCPA seminar in Beirut, far away from their hometown. “Our families were against it,” Farah says. “Staying at a hotel with 50 men is not a good thing to do for young decent women. We couldn’t convince our families to allow us to go, so in the end we just said, ‘Enough. We will go whether you like it or not.’”

Farah and Mirna have learned a lot at the seminar, but it is not only the women who have something to learn. According to Farah, male instructors and trainers also have many things to learn: “Some of the men here are not used to have women around them. But they have to learn this: women are also allowed on the playing field and to take part in society.”

The small liberation movement for Farah, Mirna and their Lebanese sisters has started. There is still a long way to go, but Farah is optimistic and motivated. “We will need time. Things don’t change overnight here, but we know that we can do it. We know that we can change how other people are seeing women. We can’t lose faith – and we can’t fail! But we need patience.”

Source: Common Ground.

Link: http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=30474&lan=en&sp=0.

EU endorses Syrian opposition

November 19, 2012

BRUSSELS (AP) — The newly formed Syrian opposition coalition received backing from the European Union on Monday in a significant vote of confidence for a movement struggling to prove its credibility and gain the trust of splintered factions.

The endorsement of the coalition as a legitimate voice for Syria’s people represents a major step forward in the West’s acceptance of the group, even as fast-moving events and fluid alliances are casting doubts on the direction of the rebellion.

“The EU considers them legitimate representatives of the aspirations of the Syrian people,” the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers said in a statement at the end of their monthly meeting. They stopped short of offering official diplomatic recognition because that can only be decided by each member country individually.

The international support comes at a difficult time for the new coalition. Late Sunday, a group of extremist Islamist factions in Syria rejected the new opposition coalition, saying in a video statement they have formed an “Islamic state” in the embattled city of Aleppo to underline that they want nothing to do with the Western-backed bloc.

Few outsiders can be sure of exactly who is in the coalition of disparate opposition groups seeking to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and whether offering it support could be a cause for future regret.

“The nature of the opposition is still pretty fragmented,” said Malcolm Chalmers, a professor of defense and foreign policy at King’s College in London. “There are fears of what the opposition regime would look like. There is a strong wish that we get a regime that is broadly representative rather than sectarian with extreme agendas that the West would not support.”

So far, France has been the only Western nation to extend diplomatic recognition to the coalition. The U.K. has indicated it will consider the issue later this week. “I hope this meeting here today will give a boost to that opposition, to the coalition, and will appreciate that they have made a big step forward,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on his way into the meeting. “I will speak about the question of recognition when I talk to the House of Commons later this week.”

Some EU members have suggested arming the Syrian opposition, but officials said the idea was likely to get little traction in the meeting Monday. A senior EU official said last week that shipping weapons to the Syrian opposition while keeping an embargo against the Assad regime in place would be very difficult to enforce.

Currently, the EU has an embargo prohibiting the shipment of arms into Syria. An EU official said Monday that embargo is likely to be renewed in full later this week. Meanwhile, the EU joined the chorus of international figures expressing concern about violence elsewhere in the Middle East, deploring the mounting death toll in the Gaza conflict. A ministerial statement called for an urgent de-escalation and cessation of hostilities. It also expressed strong support for the efforts of Egypt and other actors to arrange for a rapid cease-fire.

Israeli forces are attacking Gaza in an effort to stop the militant rocket fire, and scores of Palestinians and three Israeli civilians have been killed in the conflict. Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt said the most important thing is to arrange an immediate cease-fire.

“Then, we must look at the wider and deeper issues,” he said. “This is the second Gaza war in a few years. We can’t wait for the third and fourth.” The EU ministers also discussed how to provide assistance to the West African force that is scheduled to help Mali’s tenuous government wrest control of the country’s vast north that was seized by al-Qaida-linked fighters more than six months ago.

The ministers said they welcomed undertakings by member states to contribute to the training mission and would submit these plans to EU leaders for their approval at a summit next month. Several EU members have expressed their readiness to help train the Malian army so it can retake the north.

The United States is also worried that the Sahel region of northeastern Mali could become a terrorist haven, and is pushing for international action in the region.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

In bold move, France welcomes Syria ambassador

November 17, 2012

PARIS (AP) — France on Saturday welcomed a member of the Syrian opposition as the country’s ambassador, a bold bid to confer legitimacy on the week-old opposition coalition and encourage other Western nations to follow suit.

The new envoy, Mounzir Makhous, appeared before the press after talks at France’s presidential palace between President Francois Hollande and the head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition. France has swiftly stepped out ahead of Western allies nearly since the start of the Syrian uprising 20 months ago. Saturday’s surprise announcement came even before the brand new coalition has named its provisional government and before a place in Paris to house the envoy has been found.

“There will be an ambassador of Syria in France,” Hollande announced. France expelled its Syrian ambassador in May, along with more a half-dozen other countries. Mouaz Al-Khatib, the opposition leader, described Makhous as “one of the first to speak of liberty” in Syria. He holds four doctorate degrees and belongs to the Muslim Alawite sect of President Bashar Assad, demonstrating an effort to reach out to all of Syria’s people, al-Khatib said.

France recognized the coalition days after it was formed last Sunday — and so far is the only Western country to do so. France also took the lead in backing the Libyan opposition that ultimately ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi, and flew the first mission of the international coalition providing air support to Libyan rebels.

There is widespread fear that without a legitimate opposition force the civil war in Syria could degenerate into sectarian battles pitting community upon community. But, the United States and other EU nations have said they prefer to wait and see whether the coalition truly represents the variety of people that make up Syria before they recognize it.

Al-Khatib suggested that a provisional government made up of technocrats would come quickly, a move that would allow the ambassador to take up his functions. A military command is also being formed and a coordination center devoted to humanitarian aid will be set up in Cairo.

“I say frankly that we have no hidden agenda. There are no hidden accords, no hidden decisions were made,” al-Khatib said in a bid to reassure other nations. “Our role will end as soon as this regime falls. The Syrian people can then decide in all freedom the democratic institutions, the form of constitutional regime that they want,” he said. “The people can take their decisions freely.”

A Syrian government official dismissed Makhous’ appointment, saying it was made at the behest of France. “If France has appointed him, then he is a French ambassador, not a Syrian one,” he said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the subject.

More than 36,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011 and the new coalition is pressing for the means to defend Syrian civilians. On Saturday, Syrian rebels took control of the Hamdan airport in the oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour along the border with Iraq after days of heavy fighting with Assad’s forces, Rami Abdul-Rahman, the chief of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

The airport, near the border town of al-Boukamal, has been turned into a military base during Syria’s 20 months of conflict. Rebels had been making advances in al-Boukamal for weeks. On Thursday, they seized control of the military security building and a military checkpoint at the edge of the border town.

Separately, six people were killed and several were wounded when a mortar round hit a Damascus suburb of Jaramana, state-run SANA news agency reported. The agency said blamed the attack on terrorists, a term the regime uses for rebels, fighting to topple Assad.

In Paris, security for the visit of al-Khatib and his delegation was particularly tight, with sharpshooters on the rooftops of buildings facing the Elysee Palace courtyard where Hollande and al-Khatib spoke to reporters.

Hollande also confirmed that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will raise the issue of lifting the EU arms embargo against Syria at a meeting Monday in Brussels among European Union foreign ministers.

Fabius has suggested supplying defensive weapons so Syrian rebels can protect themselves from attacks by Assad’s regime. Since May 2011, the EU has imposed a ban on the export of weapons and equipment to Syria that could be used for “internal repression.”

Fabius will also press EU partners to recognize the coalition, Hollande said. Hollande said al-Khatib reassured him that the coalition he leads seeks unity of the Syrian people and the French aim in moving quickly is to “assure its legitimacy and credibility.”

The coalition replaces the fractious Syrian National Council as the main opposition group — also recognized first by France — although that group makes up about a third of the 60-plus members of the new coalition.

Al-Khatib met Friday in London with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and representatives of France, Germany, the United States and Turkey and Qatar.

Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, Barbara Surk in Beirut and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Western efforts on Syria shifting

November 07, 2012

ZAATARI, Jordan (AP) — Western efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad shifted dramatically Wednesday, with Britain announcing it will deal directly with rebel military leaders.

A Turkish official also said his nation has held discussions with NATO allies, including the United States, on using Patriot missiles to protect a safe zone inside Syria. The developments came within hours of President Barack Obama’s re-election. U.S. allies anticipate a new, bolder approach from the American leader to end the deadlocked civil war that has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

U.S. officials said Patriots or other assets could be deployed to Turkey’s side of the border for defensive purposes against possible incursions, mortar strikes and the like. But Washington isn’t prepared to send any such equipment inside Syria, which would amount to a violation of sovereignty and a significant military escalation, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Like Britain, American officials are considering meeting with rebel military commanders. If the contacts were to happen, they would be most likely conducted by Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador in Damascus, who is currently in Doha for Syrian opposition talks, a U.S. official said. But no final decision has been made.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, said the U.S., Britain and other allies should do more to “shape the opposition” into a coherent force and open channels of communication directly with rebel military commanders.

Previously, Britain and the U.S. have acknowledged contacts only with exile groups and political opposition figures — some connected to rebel forces — inside Syria. “There is an opportunity for Britain, for America, for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and like-minded allies to come together and try to help shape the opposition, outside Syria and inside Syria,” Cameron said. “And try to help them achieve their goal, which is our goal of a Syria without Assad.”

The foreign ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy, said discussions about the deployment of Patriot missiles to protect a safe zone had been put on hold until after the U.S. election.

Since the summer, Assad’s regime has significantly increased its use of air power against rebels as government forces are stretched thin on multiple fronts. The Turkish official said any missile deployment might happen under a “NATO umbrella,” though NATO has insisted it will not intervene without a clear United Nations mandate.

“With the re-election of Obama, what you have is a strong confidence on the British side that the U.S. administration will be engaged more on Syria from the get-go,” said Shashank Joshi, an analyst at London’s Royal United Services Institute, a military and security think tank.

On the ground in Syria, rebels made a new push into the capital Wednesday. Opposition fighters fired mortar shells toward the presidential palace — but missed their target — and clashed heavily with troops in the suburbs of Damascus. The regime’s capital stronghold has seen a surge in violence this week with some of the fiercest clashes in months.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said the Syrian military was shelling another suburb, Beit Saham, with tanks and mortar shells, killing at least 18 people in that neighborhood alone.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said talks with rebel military leaders would not involve advice on military tactics or support for their operations. Hague also insisted that Britain would not consider offering weapons to Assad’s opponents.

Face-to-face meetings with military figures will take place outside Syria, Hague said. Diplomats from the U.S., Britain, France and Turkey are already scheduled to meet with Syrian opposition groups Thursday in Doha, Qatar, though there has been no announcement that those talks will include discussions with rebel fighters.

He said British diplomats will tell rebel commanders to respect the human rights of captured Assad loyalists, amid concern over abuses carried out by both sides. “In all contacts, my officials will stress the importance of respecting human rights and international human rights norms, rejecting extremism and terrorism, and working towards peaceful political transition,” Hague told lawmakers.

At the Zaatari camp, which houses about 40,000 of the estimated 236,000 people who have fled into Jordan from Syria, Cameron said he would press Obama at the first opportunity to drive forward efforts to end the 19-month-old conflict.

Cameron plans to convene a meeting of Britain’s National Security Council in London devoted entirely to Syria and discuss how the U.K. can encourage Obama to pursue a more direct strategy. “Right here in Jordan I am hearing appalling stories about what has happened inside Syria, so one of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis,” he said.

Talks with those who had fled the violence had redoubled his “determination that now, with a newly elected American president, we have got to do more to help this part of the world, to help Syria achieve transition,” Cameron added.

He flew to the camp by helicopter with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and announced that Britain would offer an extra 14 million pounds ($22 million) in humanitarian aid, bringing its total funding to 53.5 million pounds ($85.5 million) — making it the second largest donor after the United States.

Cameron later held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the capital, Amman.

Stringer reported from London. Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Turkey: Syrian regime resembles armed militia

December 01, 2012

ISTANBUL (AP) — The Syrian regime has degenerated into an “armed militia” that resorts to brutality in an attempt to stay in power, Turkey’s foreign minister said Saturday at a meeting with top Arab diplomats.

The officials at a one-day summit in Istanbul described the Syrian regime as a threat to peace and security in the region, and they also expressed support for the Palestinians after the United Nations endorsed an independent state for them on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey said the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad had lost its legitimacy after 20 months of conflict that started with peaceful protests against the regime and evolved into a civil war after pro-Assad forces cracked down.

“It has turned into an armed militia power that resorts to all kinds of brutal methods just to stay in power,” Davutoglu said. “The Syrian regime, which is a serious threat to the future of its own people and country, with each passing day increases the threat it poses to the well-being of our region, through its actions that target peace and security beyond its borders.”

The Syrian civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee the country, and many more are internally displaced. Activists say more than 40,000 people have died. Fighting has spilled into Turkey and other neighboring countries.

Turkey has asked NATO to deploy Patriot missiles on its territory as a defense against any attacks by the Syrian regime, and there are fears that the conflict is deepening sectarian divisions in the region.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour agreed that the Syrian war has “negative ramifications” for the region. But he advocated dialogue as the only solution to the crisis, contrasting with Turkey’s calls at the United Nations for an internationally protected “buffer zone” inside Syria that would protect civilians. Such a zone would likely require military action to secure it, including a no-fly zone.

“There should not be any external military or any other kind of intervention,” said Mansour, current chairman of the Arab League. He said the meeting of a dozen foreign ministers as well as other delegates, titled the Turkish-Arab Cooperation Forum, was a positive sign for a region traditionally plagued by a lack of political unity. Turkey launched the annual meeting in 2007.

“This was important in the aftermath of the 1990s, when we did not have a lot of activity,” Mansour said.

Palestinians celebrate UN statehood vote

November 29, 2012

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinians erupted in wild cheers Thursday, hugging each other, setting off fireworks and chanting “God is great” after the United Nations granted them, at least formally, what they have long yearned for — a state of their own.

The historic General Assembly decision to accept “Palestine” as a non-member observer state won’t immediately change lives here, since much of the territory of that state — the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — remains under Israeli control.

Yet many Palestinians savored the massive global recognition — 138 of 193 General Assembly members voted “yes” — following decades of setbacks in the quest for Palestinian independence in lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

“It’s a great feeling to have a state, even if in name only,” said civil servant Mohammed Srour, 28, standing in a flag-waving a crowd of more than 2,000 packed into a square in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “The most beautiful dream of any man is to have an independent state, particularly for us Palestinians who have lived under occupation for a long time.”

After the euphoria over the vote, Palestinians will return to their harsh reality. They lack most trappings of statehood, including control over borders, airspace or trade. In a further complication, they are ruled by rival governments, one run by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and the other by the Islamic militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Yet, Palestinians say the recognition isn’t just symbolic. They believe U.N. recognition will strengthen their hand in future talks with Israel, which has lambasted the the Palestinian move as an attempt to bypass such negotiations.

The warm embrace by the international community could also help Abbas, who led the recognition appeal, restore some of his domestic standing, which has been eroded by years of standstill in peace efforts. Hamas, entrenched in Gaza, has seen its popularity rise after holding its own during an Israeli offensive on targets linked to the Islamists there earlier this month.

After initially criticizing the U.N. bid as an empty gesture, Hamas has come around to supporting the popular move, with reservations. Palestinians in the coastal strip also celebrated the vote, though on a smaller scale than after the massive eruption of joy in the streets after last week’s cease-fire deal with Israel.

Some set off fireworks, others shot in the air and children in the streets cheered and flashed victory signs. “Today is a big joy for all of us,” Abu Yazan, a 29-year-old Abbas supporter, said. Izzat Rishaq, a senior Hamas figure in exile, said he welcomed the U.N. vote an achievement, but that Hamas counts on “heroic resistance” to create a Palestinian state — underlining the group’s deep ideological rift with Abbas who opposes violence.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the U.N. vote as meaningless and accused Abbas of delivering a “defamatory and venomous” U.N. speech “full of mendacious propaganda” against Israel. Netanyahu argued that the U.N. move violated past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and that Israel would act accordingly, without elaborating what steps it might take.

The Palestinians reject Israel’s claim that the recognition bid is an attempt to dictate the future borders of Palestine. Instead, they say, it’s a last-ditch attempt to rescue peace efforts threatened by Israeli settlement building on occupied land. Since 1967, half a million Israelis have settled on lands the U.N. says are part of Palestine.

Abbas aides say that with its vote, the U.N. is rebuffing Israeli attempts to portray these territories as “disputed,” or up for grabs, rather than occupied. Abbas aide Nabil Shaath said it will no longer be up to Israel to decide whether the Palestinians can have a state.

“The notion that Israel should approve the Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination is simply illogical, immoral, and totally unacceptable,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The affirmation of the pre-1967 line as the border of Palestine also poses a direct challenge to Netanyahu who has refused to accept that demarcation as a basis for border talks with the Palestinians. Abbas and his aides have said that the Israeli leader’s rejection of such a framework for negotiations, accepted by his predecessors, helped push them to go to the U.N.

The Palestinians could also gain access to U.N. agencies and international bodies, most significantly the International Criminal Court, which could become a springboard for going after Israel for alleged war crimes or its ongoing settlement building on war-won land.

However, Abbas has signaled that he wants recognition to give him leverage in future talks with Israel, not as a tool for confronting or delegitimizing Israel, as Israeli leaders have alleged. He told the U.N. on Thursday that the Palestinians will “behave in a responsible and positive ways in our next steps.”

Palestinian technical teams have studied the laws of all U.N. agencies and put together recommendations for Abbas, said a Palestinian official involved in the effort. He said Abbas told the experts there is no rush, and the next Palestinian moves would in part depend on international reaction, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations.

Most immediately, the Palestinian Authority, which relies heavily on foreign aid and is struggling with the worst cash crisis in its 18-year history, could face further funding cuts over the U.N. bid.

In Washington, a bipartisan group of senators warned the Palestinians they could lose U.S. financial support of millions of dollars a year and risk the shutdown of their Washington office if they use their enhanced U.N. status against Israel

Israel could also suspend the monthly transfer of millions of dollars in tax rebates it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, a punitive step it has taken in the past. In recent months, the Palestinian Authority has been struggling to cover its public sector payroll, paying salaries in installments.

Mahmoud Khamis, a civil servant from the West Bank village of Deir Jareer, said he is willing to bear the negative consequences of U.N. recognition, including further disruptions in getting his salary. “It’s good to have that state recognized, for the people of the world to hear our voice and know our cause,” he said.

Associated Press writer Dalia Nammari in Ramallah, West Bank, and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City contributed reporting.

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