Abbas' address to the General Assembly was broadcast live in major West Bank cities
Palestinians gather in the West Bank city of Ramallah to watch a wide screen relaying live footage of a historic bid for statehood by Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday. © Alessio Romenzi - AFP/File
Abbas' address to the General Assembly was broadcast live in major West Bank cities
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AFP
Last updated: October 19, 2011

Ramallah crowds to welcome Abbas after UN bid

Thousands of Palestinians massed in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday to give their president a hero's welcome for submitting a historic bid for UN membership.

President Mahmud Abbas was expected to arrive in the city, the political capital of the West Bank, at around 1100 GMT, but crowds began gathering at his presidential headquarters, the Muqataa, hours in advance.

Local unions, Abbas's Fatah party, and the campaign that backed the membership bid called on Palestinians across the West Bank to travel to Ramallah to welcome the leader back.

Buses laid on by different groups were bringing thousands from cities including Hebron in the south and Jenin in the north, organisers said.

In the Muqataa, a small stage was erected not far from the grave of former president Yasser Arafat, with Abbas expected to address the jubilant crowds.

Mohammed Amudi, who was awaiting Abbas's arrival with his young son, said he wanted to demonstrate his backing for the UN bid.

"I came to the Muqataa to declare my support for Abu Mazen's brave speech at the United Nations and his challenge to the United States," he said, using Abbas's popular nom de guerre.

"Abu Mazen deserves to have all the Palestinians standing with him in this battle," he told AFP.

Nearby, 71-year-old Abed Qader Mohammed sat holding a Palestinian flag.

"I came to show solidarity with Abu Mazen because I believe that his speech to the UN was not just his speech, but our speech," he said.

"Abu Mazen did his job at the UN and put our demands on their table and I'm here at the Muqataa today to say to him: thank you."

In Jericho, crowds lined up to board buses for Ramallah.

"I'm going to Ramallah today to say 'Thank you president Mahmud Abbas'," said Anwar Ahmed, a government employee clutching a Palestinian flag.

"Before the president's UN speech I didn't care that much about politics, but after hearing the speech I understood better the difficulties we face as a people and the difficulties our president faces," Ahmed said.

Huge crowds were expected to turn out for the celebration, with the Palestinian workers' union calling on its members to join and government offices and schools closing early for the event.

Both state television and the state-run news agency WAFA urged the public to mass at the Muqataa, and Palestinians across the West Bank received text messages advertising "the official mass reception."

Abbas is experiencing an unprecedented boost in popularity after delivering a request earlier this week that the United Nations admit Palestine as a full member state.

His address to the General Assembly, delivered shortly after he formally submitted the bid, was broadcast live on big screens set up in the centres of major West Bank cities.

Crowds cheered the unassuming leader, and he received rave reviews in the Palestinian media the next day, with commentators hailing his "brave" address and his courage in delivering the bid despite US and Israeli opposition.

"President Abu Mazen returns today and the masses have prepared to welcome him with a reception fit for the man who raised the voice of Palestine in the world's most important forum -- the United Nations," Al-Quds newspaper wrote in its editorial on Sunday.

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