Israel's Netanyahu hails UN Hamas vote despite defeat

Israel's Netanyahu hails UN Hamas vote despite defeat

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a candle lightning ceremony on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday hailed majority backing in the UN General Assembly for condemning militant group Hamas even though a draft resolution failed to win enough votes to pass.

The US draft won 87 votes in the General Assembly on Thursday compared to 58 against but fell short of a required two-thirds majority.

Thirty-two countries abstained.

"The draft condemnation of Hamas in the UN General Assembly received a sweeping majority by countries that stood against Hamas," Netanyahu said in an English-language statement.

"This is the first time that a majority of countries have voted against Hamas and I commend each of the 87 countries that took a principled stand.

"I thank the American administration and US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley for the initiative."

Haley, who steps down from her post at the end of the year, has repeatedly accused the United Nations of having an anti-Israel bias.

She has defended Israel in its latest confrontation with Hamas, the Islamist group which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 and has fought three wars with Israel since then.

The United States had won crucial backing from the European Union, with all 28 countries supporting the draft that would have condemned Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and demanded an end to the violence.

The European Union, like the United States, blacklists Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

It was the first draft resolution condemning Hamas to be presented to the 193-nation assembly, which has been meeting since 1946.

Hamas praised the outcome of the vote, describing it as a "slap" to President Donald Trump's administration.

"The failure of the American venture at the United Nations represents a slap to the US administration and confirmation of the legitimacy of the resistance," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri tweeted, referring to militant groups that oppose Israel.

In an unusual move, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a longtime rival of Hamas, also welcomed the vote's failure.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah, said in a statement Friday that the draft's defeat was a message that "all the conspiracies against the Palestinian leadership and legitimacy will not pass."

Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas have been at loggerheads since the Islamists seized control of Gaza in 2007, although Egypt has been leading efforts to reconcile them.