Palestinians to raise their flag at the United Nations for first time
The Palestinians will raise their flag at the United Nations on Wednesday in what president Mahmud Abbas calls a beacon of hope at a time of growing despair of achieving an independent state.
U. N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and Abbas will preside over the 15- minute ceremony in the rose garden, to begin at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) shortly after the Palestinian leader addresses the General Assembly.
Abbas, 80, called it “our moment of hope,” in an op-ed published by The Huffington Post on the eve of the ceremony.
Rain is forecast for much of the day, which could put a damper on an occasion condemned by Israel and the United States as a symbolic gesture that would not serve the cause of peace.
Hundreds of world leaders are invited, but an official at the Palestinian mission to the U.N. could say only that “a large” number would attend.
The General Assembly voted Sept. 10 to allow the flags of Palestine and the Vatican — both have observer status — to be raised at the world body alongside those of member states.
The resolution was backed by 119 countries, with 45 abstentions and eight votes against, including Australia, Israel and the United States.
In The Huffington Post, Abbas urged the international community to urgently “seize the momentum” from the flag-raising and provide a clear plan to end Israeli occupation, uphold human rights and achieve justice.
“It is time to finally achieve the independence of the State of Palestine, peacefully resolving the Palestinian- Israeli conflict,” he wrote.
Abbas called for a multilateral peace process as in the Balkans, saying that Palestinians cannot negotiate directly with Israel, which “exhibits such contempt for the rights and existence of our people.”
His address to the General Assembly, expected at 12 p.m. ( 1600 GMT), will be closely watched for clues about his intentions at a time of growing volatility.
Clashes in recent weeks between Israeli police and Palestinians at the sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem have raised tensions and prompted Abbas to warn of the risk of a third intifada.
Speculation has been growing about whether his retirement is imminent or whether he intends to take the drastic step of dismantling the Palestinian Authority to re-energize the push for statehood.
A recent poll found that Palestinians are increasingly exasperated with his leadership and Israel’s right-wing government.
A majority favor a return to armed uprising in the absence of peace talks and two thirds want Abbas to resign.
“Abbas is going to tell everyone that the current situation is no longer tenable, that the Authority has authority in name only, while Israel is destroying any idea of a two-state solution,” a Palestinian official told AFP earlier this week, declining to provide further details.
Also, Israeli air raids have hit the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave that was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, officials said Wednesday.
There were no reports of injuries from both the rocket fire and the Israeli raids, which the military said targeted “four terror sites.”
Witnesses and Palestinian security sources said four training camps for Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al- Qassam Brigades, were hit in the raids. They were empty at the time.
Three of the camps are located in Gaza City and the fourth in the north of the coastal enclave.
Palestinian youths run from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces during clashes over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound at the main entrance of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Tuesday, Sept. 29.