GAZA CITY: Hamas on Saturday welcomed a landmark UN Security Council vote demanding a halt to Israeli settlements in occupied territory, with the Palestinian Islamist movement saying it marked an "important evolution."
The UN Security Council on Friday demanded that Israel halt settlements in Palestinian territory, after the United States refrained from vetoing the resolution condemning its closest Middle East ally.
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Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, remains deeply divided from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party, which dominates the occupied West Bank.
"Hamas appreciates the position of the countries that voted in the Security Council for the right of the Palestinian people (to live) on their land," said Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum.
"We salute this important evolution in international positions," he said, while calling for more such actions to bring about "the end of the occupation."
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Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but has occupied the West Bank for nearly 50 years.
There have been growing warnings that settlement building in the West Bank is fast eroding the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While the Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognised Israel's right to exist, Hamas, which is not part of the PLO, has not.
It is considered a militant organisation by Israel, the European Union and the United States.
Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars with Israel since 2008, while the enclave has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade. Its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed.
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UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, saying conditions are deteriorating in the impoverished territory of two million people.
Israel says it is needed to keep Hamas from importing weapons or materials used to make them.
Islamic Jihad, the second-largest force in Gaza, also welcomed the UN vote, with spokesman Daoud Shehab saying it would lead to Israel's "isolation" and "boycott" while opening it up to prosecution under international law.
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