Washington/ Gaza City : The US has defended its decision to refrain from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building in Palestine, saying the unusual step was taken only after all negotiating options to pursue a two-state solution were exhausted. President-elect Donald Trump meanwhile slammed the outgoing Obama administration for abstaining from voting. “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th,” he tweeted.

  “The United States acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution, which every US administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” said Secretary of State, John Kerry.

 “One of our grave concerns is that the continued pace of settlement activity — which has accelerated significantly since 2011, when we vetoed the UN Security Council resolution that condemns settlements — puts at risk the two-state solution, as does any continued incitement to violence,” Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor told reporters during a conference call. Hamas today 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.”

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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