Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday vowed to pursue efforts to end the split between the West Bank and Gaza, and thanked Hamas and all Palestinian groups for supporting his statehood bid at the UN.

Abbas, speaking to thousands of supporters in Ramallah during a rally organized by the PA to celebrate the UN General Assembly’s vote in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state, said he would focus his efforts now on “restoring unity of the Palestinians and their lands and institutions.”

The crowd, which consisted mostly of PA civil servants and Fatah activists, responded by chanting, “We want national unity!” “Abbas, onwards, we are with you until liberation!” and “With blood and soul, we redeem Abu Mazen [Abbas].”

In the coming days, Abbas said, “We will study accelerating moves to achieve reconciliation [with Hamas].”

Abbas hailed the outcome of the UN vote as an “historic achievement,” adding that November 29 has become a “decisive turning point in our national struggle.”

Noting that more than 75 percent of UN members had voted in favor of the statehood bid, the PA president said that most of the countries that had abstained congratulated the Palestinians on their achievement.

“The message to us is very clear,” he said. “We are not alone. History is with us. The future belongs to us and God is with us.”

Abbas said he decided to go to the UN despite pressure and warnings from several parties.

“They told us that if we go the world would explode,” he added. “They asked us to postpone the move. Finally, they told us to change our policy and project. But we remained steadfast and triumphed because the world heard the voices of our people.”

Abbas said he was presenting the UN “victory” as a gift to the the “soul of the late leader Yasser Arafat.” He said that the Palestinians would continue to march in the footsteps of Arafat.

Abbas said the Palestinians would continue their struggle until the Palestinian flag is raised over the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City and churches. He said that Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine.”

Abbas said he was also presenting the UN “victory” to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for their “legendary sacrifices and steadfastness.”

The PA president boasted that the UN vote has both provoked and isolated Israel in the international arena. Abbas concluded his speech by telling Palestinians to “raise your heads high because you are Palestinians and you have proven that you are stronger than occupation and settlements.”

The PA gave civil servants half the day off to attend the celebrations.

The festivities included a ceremonial release of balloons in the red, green, white and black colors of the Palestinian flag.

Palestinian onlooker Muhammad Stayyeh said he was there “to thank the president for the historic achievement and dream that he achieved for us and our children.”

Hamas responded to Abbas’s call for unity by calling for “urgent meetings” between the two sides to solve their differences.

Hamas representative Salah Bardaweel pointed out that Abbas did not set preconditions for ending the dispute during his speech in Ramallah. Bardaweel noted that Palestinians who greeted Abbas had chanted slogans in favor of ending the Hamas-Fatah rivalry.

“This shows that there is a real desire for achieving reconciliation,” the Hamas official said.

Reuters contributed to this story.


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