Skirmishes erupt as Palestinians react to US move

Above: Palestinian protesters running from tear gas fired by Israeli troops yesterday during clashes at a protest against the US' move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Below: Mr Trump holding the pro
Palestinian protesters running from tear gas fired by Israeli troops yesterday during clashes at a protest against the US' move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Above: Palestinian protesters running from tear gas fired by Israeli troops yesterday during clashes at a protest against the US' move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Below: Mr Trump holding the pro
Mr Trump holding the proclamation on Jerusalem he signed, during an address from the White House in Washington on Wednesday. With him is US Vice-President Mike Pence.PHOTOS: REUTERS

Unrest set to worsen as Hamas urges uprising against Israel

RAMALLAH (West Bank) • Skirmishes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers broke out yesterday in Ramallah and other areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, one day after United States President Donald Trump announced that his administration would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike in Palestinian cities and, in Gaza, the Islamist Hamas movement urged its followers to ignite a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel.

At a checkpoint near Ramallah, Israeli forces fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of Palestinian protesters gathering to air their anger over Mr Trump's statement. They burned tyres and pelted the soldiers with rocks.

Clashes also erupted in East Jerusalem and at the border fence between Israel and Gaza.

Medics said at least 31 people were wounded by Israeli army gunfire. They said 11 were hit by live bullets and 20 by rubber bullets. One person was in a critical condition.

Mr Trump's announcement on Wednesday that he would move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and his declaration that the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital reversed a decades-old US policy.

Israel's army said it was preparing for an increase in violence in the coming days and that it has beefed up its troops in the West Bank, adding reinforcements to its combat intelligence and territorial defence units.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new uprising in the Palestinian territories, and declared today a day of rage.

He called on the Palestinian Authority to stop security coordination with Israel and "enable the resistance in the occupied West Bank to respond to this blatant aggression".

Israel's army said it was preparing for an increase in violence in the coming days and that it has beefed up its troops in the West Bank, adding reinforcements to its combat intelligence and territorial defence units.

US institutions in the region were also readying themselves for a possible violent fallout.

Reuters reported that a State Department communique has been sent to diplomats at the embassy in Tel Aviv with talking points to convey to Israeli officials.

"While I recognise that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response," Reuters quoted the document dated Wednesday as saying.

"We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on US facilities and personnel overseas."

In his televised speech on Wednesday, Mr Trump said that presidents before him had signed a waiver delaying the recognition of Jerusalem under the belief that it might advance the cause of peace.

 
 

But, he said, "after more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result".

"Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he said.

Israelis see Jerusalem as their eternal and undivided capital, while Palestinians envision the predominantly Arab eastern part of the city as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss the US decision.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hailed President Trump's announcement as a "historic landmark", said yesterday that many countries would follow the US move, and contacts were under way.

He did not name the countries he was referring to.

WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2017, with the headline 'Skirmishes erupt as Palestinians react to US move'. Print Edition | Subscribe