‘Rage’ protests erupt af­ter Jerusalem de­ci­sion


Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - JOSEF FE­D­ER­MAN

Thou­sands of Pales­tinian pro­test­ers clashed with Is­raeli forces in east Jerusalem and the West Bank Thurs­day while demon­stra­tors in the Gaza Strip burned U.S. flags and pic­tures of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in a show of rage over the Amer­i­can de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

Is­raeli forces were brac­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of even stronger vi­o­lence on Fri­day, when tens of thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans at­tend weekly prayers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, the city’s most sa­cred Is­lamic site. In Gaza, the leader of the Ha­mas ex­trem­ist group called on Pales­tini­ans to launch a new up­ris­ing against Is­rael.

“This Zion­ist policy sup­ported by the U.S. can­not be con­fronted un­less we ig­nite a new in­tifada,” said Is­mail Haniyeh. “Jerusalem is be­ing kid­napped and ripped from us.” Soon af­ter the speech, Has­san Nas­ral­lah, the leader of Hezbol­lah, the Le­banese mil­i­tant group backed by Iran, said he sup­ported the call for a new Pales­tinian in­tifada.

Both Hezbol­lah and Ha­mas have con­sid­er­able ar­se­nals but nei­ther group said they planned to turn them on Is­rael.

How­ever, Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence has said in the past that it be­lieves both groups would like to in­cite a mass up­ris­ing by or­di­nary Pales­tini­ans.

Thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis died in two pre­vi­ous up­ris­ings.

The Pales­tini­ans were blind­sided by Trump’s move to de­part from decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem and up­end long­stand­ing in­ter­na­tional 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 Pales­tini­ans de­clared three “days of rage,” shut­ter­ing schools and busi­nesses, and stag­ing an­gry demon­stra­tions at Da­m­as­cus Gate, one of the en­trances to Jerusalem’s Old City, and cities across the West Bank and Gaza.

“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.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary re­ported demon­stra­tions in some 30 lo­ca­tions across the West Bank on Thurs­day, say­ing Pales­tini­ans hurled stones and fire­bombs at troops. A mil­i­tary of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity un­der brief­ing guide­lines, said troops were in­structed to use min­i­mal force and avoid live fire to avoid es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions.

In the West Bank, troops fired wa­ter can­nons and tear gas to dis­perse a crowd in Beth­le­hem, the bib­li­cal town of Je­sus’ birth, just weeks be­fore thou­sands of for­eign tourists are ex­pected to visit for Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions. In Ra­mal­lah, the seat of the Pales­tinian gov­ern­ment, pro­test­ers set tires on fire, send­ing thick plumes of black smoke over the city.

Spon­ta­neous protests also took place in Gaza, with an­gry youths burn­ing tires, Amer­i­can and Is­raeli flags and Trump posters.

A se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial said the Pales­tini­ans would not meet with Mike Pence, the U.S. vice-pres­i­dent, dur­ing his visit to the re­gion later this month when he is ex­pected to visit Is­rael and make a stop in Beth­le­hem.

How­ever, a White House of­fi­cial said Pence still plans to meet with Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas and said it would be “coun­ter­pro­duc­tive” to can­cel.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials said Fri­day prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, along with the ex­pected un­rest in the West Bank, would set the tone for the com­ing days.

Pales­tinian of­fi­cials in the West Bank said they had no in­ter­est in bloody vi­o­lence but warned in­di­vid­ual at­tacks were pos­si­ble.

Ha­mas, which seeks Is­rael’s de­struc­tion, still has cells in the West Bank and pos­sesses a large arse­nal of rock­ets.

While Trump in­sisted the move was meant to ac­knowl­edge the cur­rent re­al­ity and not pre­judge ne­go­ti­a­tions on Jerusalem’s sta­tus, it car­ried deep sym­bolic mean­ing and was seen by the Pales­tini­ans as sid­ing with Is­rael.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said Trump “bound him­self for­ever” to the his­tory of Jerusalem and main­tained other coun­tries were al­ready in­ter­ested in fol­low­ing suit.

Anger at the U.S. rip­pled across the Arab world.

Saudi Ara­bia con­demned Trump’s de­ci­sion in a rare pub­lic re­buke by the U.S. ally. The Arab League, which rep­re­sents most states in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, was to meet Satur­day. Next week, Turkey will host a gath­er­ing of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion, which has 57 Arab and Mus­lim mem­ber states.

Pales­tinian of­fi­cials are con­cerned the Arabs will not pro­vide the sus­tained back­ing Ab­bas needs. While quick to con­demn Trump’s de­ci­sion, Arab lead­ers have not threat­ened to re­duce ties or take any other ac­tion against the U.S. or Is­rael.


An Is­raeli po­lice of­fi­cer scuf­fles with a Pales­tinian pro­tester in Jerusalem’s Old City on Thurs­day. Is­raeli forces were brac­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of stronger vi­o­lence on Fri­day.


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