Embracing and shooting guns and fireworks into the air, a few thousand Palestinians celebrated the UN General Assembly's decision on Thursday to upgrade them to a non-member observer state.
As members of the body cast their vote, there was silence in Yasser Arafat Square in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where large screens were set up to broadcast the session.
- Op-ed: Credit goes to Netanyahu
- General Assembly recognizes Palestine as observer state
- 300 Israelis rally in support of Palestinian statehood
But the quiet was shattered by cheers and shouts of "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)" when the tally was announced, the bid for the status upgrade approved by 138-9.
Fireworks were launched, and a few of those celebrating even fired guns into the air as music rang out in the city center.
During Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor's speech at the UN, some could be heard calling out "settler dogs," while others booed.
One Ramallah resident blamed the weather for the low turnout. "Also, in September of last year the leadership prepared the public differently for the UN bid. Last time the Palestinian Authority's preparations lasted10 months, while this time the campaign to gain support (for the bid) began only last week," he said.
'Real diplomatic step.' Celebrations in Ramallah (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The proud father of a baby dressed in the colors of the Palestinian flag said, "This is the first time in 64 years of occupation that we have taken a real diplomatic step.
"We support Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas), but I believe we must continue with the resistance, on all its aspects: Fight the occupation in the UN, but also continue the armed conflict," he said.
According to him, the reason only about 2,000 came out to celebrate has to do with the fact that the Palestinians "do not really believe the UN bid concerns them directly. The issue of Palestinian prisoners, for example, is more important to Palestinian families because it directly affects their lives."
Kids celebrate in Ramallah (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Some of the celebrators stressed that the UN bid was not aimed against Israel. "It is not that we are against Israel; we are against the occupation, and it is important that the Israeli public understands this," one of them told Ynet.
Rashid al-Kor, 39, said "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."
Nearby, Palestinian-American Laila Jaman was waving a handful of Palestinian flags and carrying a picture of US President Barack Obama and Abbas.
"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," she said breathlessly.
Ethar al-Asmar, a teacher, was pragmatic about the approval. "Israel isn't going anywhere," she said. But she said the moment felt historic nonetheless.
"We have been waiting for this for so long. I never thought this day would come."
Earlier, the crowd listened intently as Abbas addressed the body, urging its members to approve the bid. There was raucous applause at the beginning and end of the speech.
Bassam Rabah was sheltering from the cold inside, watching a live feed from the United Nations on television.
"I don't usually stay up late," he told AFP. "But tonight I'm staying up late to see the Palestinian vote because I want to see who is with us and who is against us."
The celebrations capped a day of festivities and activities in support of the bid, beginning with lunchtime rallies across the West Bank and Gaza.
AFP contributed to the report
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: email@example.com