Scores of Palestinians hurt as Jerusalem protests rage

Jerusalem

Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to protest against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a contentious move that has inflamed tensions in Palestine and across the region.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in a handful of cities throughout Thursday.

Over 50 Palestinians were injured in the protests, and 16 were sent to hospital, according to local health authorities in the West Bank.

Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Ramallah, said the clashes were dissipating after “several hours of quite vigorous confrontation between the youth and the Israeli army”.

Palestinian protesters gathered at the central Al Manara square in Ramallah and marched towards El Bireh, where they were met by Israeli troops firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Protests were also held in Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Jericho in the West Bank, according to Anadolu news agency, as well as in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

At least four Palestinians were injured in Gaza after Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at dozens of demonstrators who assembled east of Khan Younes, in the southern part of the coastal territory, according to Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Trump, ignoring warnings from the international community, announced on Wednesday that the US formally recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will begin the process of moving its embassy to the city, breaking with decades of US policy.

The decision has been condemned by world leaders who have described it as a “dangerous escalation” and a final nail in the coffin of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel says the city, which is under Israeli occupation, cannot be divided.

Trump’s “announcement has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we are already living in”, said Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs.

In a speech in Gaza City on Thursday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has said the US decision is a “war declaration against Palestinians”, and called for a new Intifada, or uprising. Haniya said US President Donald Trump’s recognition “killed” the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“This decision has killed the peace process, has killed the Oslo [accord], has killed the settlement process,” he said.

“The US decision is an aggression, a declaration of war on us, on the best Muslim and Christian shrines in the heart of Palestine, Jerusalem. We should work on launching an Intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” Haniya said.

Palestinians had called for three days of rage in response to Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, and for the closure of local schools and stores.

Harry Fawcett, reporting from East Jerusalem on Thursday, said a small-scale protest had been ongoing for most of the day outside Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Old City. “There has been a good deal of anger and just disbelief at what has happened overnight coming out of the White House,” he said.

Israeli police, meanwhile, attempted to break up the protest and confiscated Palestinian flags, he reported.

In Ramallah, Al Jazeera’s Abdel-Hamid said “another round of confrontations” between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers was expected on Friday.

“We expect more scenes [of] violence and unrest across the entire occupied West Bank,” she said.

On Thursday, Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Al Jazeera from Ramallah that Trump was “joining Israel in the war crimes and in confirming the annexation of the occupied Palestinian Territories”.

“I hope that the Palestinian Authority will not accept to meet with this American team any more,” he said.

“Israel decided it wants everything. They want everything? Fine. We will also fight for everything,” he said.

“We might be talking about a popular wide uprising but non-violent one, similar to the first Intifada. That’s what we need. Israelis should see the Palestinian resistance everywhere.”

Meanwhile, traditional chief and MP Mandla Mandela said on Thursday Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an act of perverse incitement and aggression against the Palestinians and all freedom loving people in the world.

“It affirms that, once again, the USA regime is on the wrong side of history. Just as it supported apartheid South Africa’s brutality it now unashamedly supports apartheid Israel and its ongoing genocide in Occupied Palestine,” he said in a statement. “Trump’s illegal declaration defies all international law and has reduced the peace process to a mockery, in which the expansion of illegal settlements continues unabated. Only the extremely insane and seriously delusional can construe such dastardly acts of aggression against UN recognised Palestinian rights as contributing to peace.” — Al Jazeera

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