Palestinians poured into the streets of West Bank cities to watch and celebrate Mahmoud Abbas’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier in the day, clashes erupted at the Qalandia checkpoint and the Israeli shot dead a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank village of Qasra
Ramallah – Carrying Palestinian flags and portraits of Abbas, Palestinians of all backgrounds, young and old, men and women, watched attentively in city’s Yasser Arafat Square as PLO Chairman and PA president Mahmoud Abbas made the case for his people and their desire for state sovereignty in front of the UN’s General Assembly.
“Our people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will the world allow Israel to occupy us forever? Are we an unwanted people? Or are we a missing state?” Abbas asked in his speech.
There were wild cheers as Abbas quoted Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, “Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.”
Mohammed Rahmah, from the small West Bank village of Salfit, came to Ramallah to be a part of the historic day. “The Palestinians have been waiting for this vote for 63 years and finally it is here,” he said half an hour before Abbas addressed the United Nations, “The whole world knows that we deserve a state and finally Abbas is fighting for our rights regardless of what Israel says.”
The excitement that the speech caused and the perception of Palestine as an equal member of the international community allowed Palestinians to momentarily forget about the hardships of their daily lives. But not all were satisfied with the performance of the Palestinian leadership.
Rula Talonisi, a mother of four living in Ramallah, echoed concerns shared by many Palestinians regarding an escalation of violence with Israel in the coming weeks. “I think that Israel is going to tease the Palestinians in the coming days,” she said, holding her two-year-old daughter in her lap.
“I hope that we will avoid confrontation with the Israeli army at checkpoints but I think that they are going to do everything to attack and tease us.”
While Ramallah was preparing for Abbas’s speech and Qalandia was engulfed in a barrage of stones and bullets, Israeli settlers marched into the Northern West Bank city of Qasra waving Israeli flags.
According to Palestinian sources inside the village, Israeli settlers began throwing stones which spiralled into a full-scale confrontation between villagers and settlers.
Responding to the clashes, Israeli soldiers entered the village, firing live ammunition which resulted in the death of Essem Odah, a 33-year-old resident of the village and father of seven.
The Israel Defence Forces said in a press release that soldiers used “riot dispersal means and eventually, live fire during a mutual rock hurling incident between Israeli civilians and Palestinians.”
Palestinians in the West Bank are trying to take advantage of their euphoric hope that Palestine could soon be a state. Many feel that statehood is merely one small step in their 44-year-old struggle for freedom, but it is a step nonetheless.