RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP)
Palestinians have erupted in wild cheers today, hugging each other and honking car horns after the United Nations voted to grant them, at least formally, what they have long yearned for - a state of their own.
In the central celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds crowding into the main square waved Palestinian flags and chanted "God is great" after the U.N. General Assembly vote.
It accepted "Palestine" as a non-member observer state with a vote of 138 in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.
The decision won't immediately change lives here, since much of what the world body is defining as the territory of that state - the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem - remains under Israeli control. Yet many Palestinians savored the global recognition after decades of setbacks in the quest for Palestinian independence in lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War..
Earlier, as the vote got under way, jubilant Palestinians crowded around outdoor screens and television sets at home to watch.
"For the first time, there will be a state called Palestine, with the recognition of the entire world," said Amir Hamdan, a 35-year-old dentist from the refugee camp of Kalandia. "Today the world will hear our voice."
He brought his wife, Nevine, and their two toddlers to the central square in the West Bank city of Ramallah, joining more than 2,000 Palestinians watching the vote on an outdoor screen. Some clapped, danced and waved Palestinian flags.
Hundreds more watched in biblical Bethlehem, with the U.N. speech of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas projected onto a towering wall that is part of Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank.
Beyond the emotions and symbolism of the day, U.N. recognition also brings real advantages.
Palestinians say it will strengthen their hand in future talks with Israel, which has lambasted the recognition bid as an attempt to bypass such negotiations.
With its vote, the U.N. is firmly rejecting Israeli attempts to portray the territories earmarked for Palestine as "disputed," or up for grabs, rather than "occupied," Abbas aides say.