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world CONTROVERSY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Trump’s Jerusalem move triggers wave of unrest

Thousands of Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in a show of rage over US president’s decision to recognise city as Israel’s capital and move US Embassy from Tel Aviv.

Saturday 9 December, 2017
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital -- a historic decision that overturns decades of US policy and risks triggering a fresh spasm of violence in the Middle East.
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital -- a historic decision that overturns decades of US policy and risks triggering a fresh spasm of violence in the Middle East. Foto:AP.

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US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday sparked Palestinian protests, sporadic clashes and a call for a new intifada as fears grew of fresh bloodshed in the region. Large crowds of worshippers across the Muslim world staged anti-US marches yesterday, some stomping on posters of Trump or burning US flags in the largest outpouring of anger yet at the decision.

Trump’s announcement also prompted an almost universal diplomatic backlash, including warnings from Turkey, the European Union and Russia.

One senior Palestinian official, meanwhile, said US Vice- President Mike Pence was “not welcome in Palestine” as the White House warned that cancelling a meeting between Pence and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas later this month would be “counterproductive.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, lavished praise on Trump, saying his name would now be associated with Jerusalem’s long history and urging other countries to follow his lead.

Israel’s military deployed hundreds more troops to the occupied West Bank amid uncertainty over the fallout, while sporadic clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces erupted in various areas. In a speech in Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a new intifada, or uprising. Within hours several projectiles were fired from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.

Hamas called for a “day of rage” against Trump’s decision and on Friday, Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in several dozen West Bank hotspots and on the border with the Gaza Strip. A 30-year-old Gaza man was killed by Israeli gunfire.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Jerusalem, throughout the West Bank and Gaza, after Trump announced the change, upending decades of US policy towards the holy city. Palestinian youth threw stones and burnt tyres in some areas. “Jerusalem will never be the capital of Israel, regardless of what Trump said,” Jamal Muheisen, a senior member of the Fatah party, said at a rally.

A general strike was called by the Palestinian Authority (PA) government, closing all commercial centres, schools and public institutions. Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh issued a call for a renewed Palestinian uprising starting Friday.

Thousands of Palestinians typically pray at the al-Aqsa mosque – the third holiest site in Islam – located in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday, making the area a flashpoint for violence.

BLINDSIDED

The Palestinians were blindsided by Trump’s move to depart from decades of US policy on Jerusalem and upend longstanding assurances that the fate of the city would be determined in negotiations.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as their capital. Israel claims the entire city, including east Jerusalem, home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as its undivided capital. The opposing claims lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have often spilled over into deadly violence. Trump’s defiant move – making good on a pledge from his 2016 presidential campaign – ends seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of the Holy City, claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump said it marks the start of a “new approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said Wednesday. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Trump’s willingness to part with international consensus on such a sensitive issue drew increasingly urgent warnings from around the world. EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the decision could take the region “backwards to even darker times.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would put the region in a “ring of fire.” Palestinian leaders were outraged. A senior member of Abbas’ Fatah faction, Jibril Rajoub, said the Palestinian president would not meet Pence during his planned visit later this month as part of a regional tour. Protests continued yesterday across the Middle East.

“We are here. We believe in our rights and one day it (will) become Jerusalem, the capital for the Palestinian people,” declared Rania Hatem, a protester outside the Old City.  


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