US shift on Jerusalem sparks protests, global outrage

Washington, Dec 7 (IANS) US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital prompted a global diplomatic backlash and sparked protests in Palestinian territories on Thursday as fears grew of fresh bloodshed in the volatile Middle East.

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in Ramallah and other places in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike. In Gaza, the Hamas movement appealed for a mass uprising.

Palestinian shops in east Jerusalem, including the Old City, as well as in the West Bank were largely shut and schools were closed on Thursday.

At a checkpoint near Ramallah, Israeli forces fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of protesters gathered to vent their anger over Trump’s announcement that has upset even Washington’s allies.

Youths burned tires, pelted soldiers with rocks and burned American flags. Clashes also erupted in East Jerusalem and at the border fence between Israel and Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent said at least 43 people were wounded.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared Friday a “day of rage”.

Israel deployed hundreds of extra troops in the West Bank amid rising tensions. US institutions in the region readied themselves for a possible violent fallout.

In a landmark speech in Washington on Wednesday, Trump reversed decades of US policy in defiance of warnings that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will derail the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace process and spark further unrest.

Trump said he would tell the State Department to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but that the US still supported a two-state solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the decision, calling it “an important step towards peace”.

But outraged Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas dubbed it “deplorable” and said Trump had disqualified the US from its traditional role as peace broker.

Demonstrations also broke out outside the US consulate in Istanbul and Amman.

The decision was met with global dismay, drawing criticism from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia and more. Western allies of the US such as Britain, Germany, Canada and France refused to side with Washington. China and Russia too expressed displeasure.

The UN Security Council will discuss the issue on Friday after eight of the 15 nations called for an emergency session. The Arab League will meet on Saturday.

The Saudi Royal Court warned of serious consequences of such an “irresponsible and unwarranted step”. The United Arab Emirates expressed “deep concern” about the repercussions.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran “will not tolerate a violation of Islamic sanctities. Muslims must stand united against this major plot”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it would put the region in a “ring of fire”.

Kuwait and Qatar also came out against the US move.

India declined to comment, saying its position on Palestine “is independent and consistent”.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Muslims worldwide to “make it clear that we strongly oppose” the US move. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo too slammed the US decision.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

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