Palestinians, Israeli troops clash over U.S. stance
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers clashed Thursday in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with some demonstrators burning American flags and posters of President Trump a day after he sided with Israel by announcing U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.
But at nightfall, after the skirmishes died down, the region was bracing for worse.
More than 100 people were injured Thursday, according to the Palestine Red Crescent, despite the deployment of several extra battalions of Israeli troops. The critical test comes today, when larger demonstrations are expected as crowds leave mosques after the weekly noon prayers.
In Gaza, the Islamist movement Hamas urged its followers to ignite a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel. The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike. Shops were shuttered in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and his declaration that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital reversed a decades-old U.S. policy. But the status of the city – holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews and struggled over for millennia – is a deeply charged issue that resonates beyond the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The backlash rippled across the wider region, with hundreds of demonstrators gathering outside the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Jordan holding placards reading “Decision Rejected” and “No to U.S. arrogance.” Criticisms continued to flow in from governments in the Middle East, Europe and beyond, with U.S. friends and adversaries alike voicing disapproval and alarm.
Turkey’s president predicted that the region would ignite in a “ring of fire,” while European leaders reiterated their opposition to the policy, and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, 86, declared, “God is weeping.” In Israel, the decision has been widely welcomed by politicians, who see it as long-overdue recognition of reality and of their historic claim to the city. Palestinians say it is a dangerous breach of U.N. resolutions and international law that ignores their right to a future capital in East Jerusalem.
On the edge of Ramallah on Thursday, Israeli forces fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of Palestinian protesters airing their anger over Trump’s statement, moving quickly to disperse the crowd. “This will be bad,” said an ambulance driver in Ramallah as young men burned tires and pelted the soldiers with stones. Emergency vehicles ferried the injured away. In some places, notably Gaza, protesters set fire to images of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to U.S. and Israeli flags.
“Trump made the wrong decision,” said Sarah Louay, 15, who was making her way toward the demonstration carrying a Palestinian flag. “We will raise our voices for Jerusalem.”