Donald Trump’s Jerusalem move sparks Palestinian protests

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem move sparks Palestinian protests

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Palestine, Protest, Summer 2017

Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops have erupted across the West Bank while demonstrators in Gaza burned Israeli and US flags after Donald Trump moved to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The leader of the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza, called for a new armed uprising in a widespread show of anger over the US president’s move.

In the West Bank, crowds of protesters set tyres on fire and threw stones at anti-riot troops.

In the biblical town of Bethlehem, troops fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse a crowd in clashes that could cloud the upcoming Christmas celebrations in the town of Jesus’s birth.

In Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, protesters set tyres on fire, sending a thick plume of black smoke over the city.

Mr Trump’s dramatic break on Wednesday with decades of US policy on Jerusalem counters long-standing international assurances to the Palestinians that the fate of the city will be determined in negotiations.

The Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as a future capital.

Palestinians closed their schools and shops on Thursday to begin three “days of rage” over Mr Trump’s decision.

Palestinians, File Photo

Rallies were under way in other West Bank cities, and a demonstration was being held outside the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City.

There were no serious casualties reported in Thursday’s clashes.

But Friday, the Muslim holy day, could provide an important test when Palestinians gather for weekly mass prayers.

In the Gaza Strip, Hamas’s leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Palestinians to launch a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel on Friday.

“The American decision is an aggression on our people and a war on our sanctuaries,” Haniyeh said in a speech, urging supporters “to be ready for any orders”.

“We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision,” he said.

Hamas, a group that seeks Israel’s destruction, killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks in the early 2000s.

But the group’s capabilities are more limited now.

Gaza, Hamas’s stronghold, is closed by an Israeli blockade, while in the West Bank many of its members have been arrested.

Nonetheless, it possesses a large arsenal of rockets capable of striking much of Israel.

Spontaneous protests sparked in Gaza overnight, with angry youths burning tyres, American and Israeli flags and Trump posters.

The Israeli military said it would deploy several battalions to the West Bank ahead of Friday, while other troops have been put on alert to address “possible developments”.

The conflicting claims to Jerusalem, and especially its Old City, where sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites are located, lie at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While Mr Trump’s decision had no impact on the city’s daily life, it carried deep symbolic meaning, and was seen as siding with Israel and an attempt to impose a solution on the Palestinians.

Israel, which claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, has welcomed Mr Trump’s decision.

Mr Netanyahu said Mr Trump “bound himself forever” to the history of Jerusalem with the move and claimed other states are considering following suit.

“We are already in contact with other states that will make a similar recognition,” he said at the foreign ministry on Thursday.

Anger at the US has rippled across the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia’s royal court, led by King Salman and his powerful son, condemned the Trump administration’s decision in a rare public rebuke by the US ally.

Palestine, Donald Trump, Jerusalem

The regional powerhouse, which could help the White House push through a Middle East settlement, said the kingdom had already warned against this step and “continues to express its deep regret at the US administration’s decision”, describing it as “unjustified and irresponsible”.

Mr Trump’s move puts the Sunni nation in a bind.

The kingdom, particularly its powerful crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, enjoys close relations with Mr Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who leads Mr Trump’s efforts to restart Middle East peace talks.

US embassies across much of the Middle East and parts of Africa warned American citizens of possible protests following Mr Trump’s move.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has suggested that with Mr Trump’s move, the US disqualified itself as mediator between Israelis and Palestinians, a role it has played exclusively in more than two decades of stop-and-go negotiations aimed at setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The talks, stalled in recent years, have failed to bring the Palestinians closer to the state they seek in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

In parallel, Israel has steadily expanded Jewish settlements on war-won lands, even as it said it wants to negotiate a deal.

Mr Abbas has not said what steps he would take, if any.

He is to meet with his closest Arab ally, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, to co-ordinate positions.

Jordan plays a central role in the mounting controversy and, alongside other US allies in the region, has criticised Mr Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

The king is seen as one of Washington’s most dependable partners in the battle against Islamic extremism in the region.

A Palestinian steps on a poster of U.S. President Donald Trump and a representation of the American flag during a protest. Picture: AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra

At the same time, the legitimacy of his Hashemite dynasty is closely linked to its special role in Jerusalem, as religious guardian of a key Muslim shrine in east Jerusalem.

Jordan, which has a large population with Palestinian roots, cannot afford to be seen as soft on Muslim claims to the holy city.

The consultations between the monarch and Mr Abbas will kick off a series of meetings in the Arab and Muslim world on how to respond to Mr Trump.

The Arab League, a group representing most states in the Middle East and North Africa, will meet on Saturday.

Next week, Turkey will host a gathering of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which has 57 Arab and Muslim member states.

The region has been bracing for fallout from Mr Trump’s seismic policy shift.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Mr Trump of throwing the Middle East into a “ring of fire” and said his motives were difficult to fathom.

“It’s not possible to understand what you are trying to get out of it,” Mr Erdogan said, referring to Mr Trump in a speech to a group of workers at Ankara’s airport.

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