Israeli soldiers injure dozens in West Bank and Gaza in protests over Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Dozens of Palestinians were injured on Thursday by Israeli soldiers as they protested against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and in the wake of a call from Hamas for a new uprising.
Nine people were injured in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, while two were hit by rubber-coated bullets and five others overcome by tear gas in the town of Bethlehem, as Israeli soldiers fired on what locals said was a peaceful march against the US president’s declaration on Wednesday.
Eleven people were injured in Tulkarem city and 15 in Hebron and al-Bireh, where thousands of demonstrators rallied with chants of “Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine”, witnesses said.
One protester was hit by live fire and another 14 by rubber bullets, medics said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers had used “riot-dispersal gear” against rock-throwers.
In Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, four Palestinians were reported injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers. One was reported to have been hit by live fire and was in a critical condition.
Video from Khan Younis showed smoke from a series of fires set by locals, a tactic used in the past to prevent air attacks and reconnaissance missions of Israeli jets.
هذا مشهد من مدينة خانيونس يتكرر الآن على امتداد كل الطرقات في قطاع غزة، حيث انتشار الأطفال وإحراقهم لإطارات السيارات احتجاجًا وتعبيرًا عن غضبهم لما جرى بحق القدس.#القدس_عاصمة_فلسطين_الأبدية pic.twitter.com/k8OZh6lhvZ
— رضوان الأخرس (@rdooan) December 7, 2017
Protesting outside the Old City of Jerusalem
The unrest came as the Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, called for a new intifada against Israel. “We can only face the Zionist policy backed by the United States by launching a new intifada,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile hailed Trump for his move.
“President Trump has immortalized himself in the chronicles of our capital,” he said.
“His name will now be held aloft, alongside other names connected to the glorious history of Jerusalem and of our people.”
The Palestinian Authority, which is based in the occupied West Bank, said the move rules out any possibility of the US being a broker in future peace talks.
In Jerusalem, Palestinians decried the decision, condemned by a huge majority of world leaders, as the latest treachery by the West.
Dauod, 27, who lives in the Old City, told Middle East Eye he felt “betrayed by the Arab nations and the whole world”.
“England promised our land Palestine to the Jewish people and America gave Jerusalem to Israel,” said Daoud.
“We don’t rely on anyone even our leadership. It’s on us, the Palestinian people to not be silent on all of this. We will lead the struggle. You saw that in the crises of the Aqsa last summer and you will see what will happen now.”
More embassies on the way
Netanyahu also said he was in touch with other countries about the possibility of moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.
The Philippines, Czech Republic and Hungary are among those who have reportedly discussed the idea.
The Israeli military said on Thursday it was deploying reinforcements to the occupied West Bank in anticipation of unrest.
“Upon the conclusion of the general staff’s situation assessment, it was decided that a number of battalions will reinforce in the area of (the West Bank), as well as combat intelligence and territorial defense,” the military said.
“In addition, more standby forces were defined, as part of the readiness for possible developments.”
In Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s second-holiest site, to condemn Trump.
Young Palestinians also organized a late-night protest in the West Bank city of Nablus.
In Gaza, activists urged people via mosque speakers to take to the streets to protest the US decision.
Palestinians also switched off Christmas lights at the traditional birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem on Wednesday night in protest.
A Christmas tree adorned with lights outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and another in Ramallah, next to the burial site of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, were plunged into darkness.
“The Christmas tree was switched off on the order of the mayor today in protest at Trump’s decision,” said Fady Ghattas, Bethlehem’s municipal media officer.
Israel seized the largely Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its capital.
The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Several peace plans have unraveled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.
Most of the international community does not formally recognize the ancient city as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations – a point reiterated by the UN’s secretary-general, Antonio Guterres.
Guterres implicitly criticised Trump, stressing his opposition to “any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace”.
Top photo | Israeli troops fire teargas towards Palestinians during a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem,, Dec. 7, 2017. (AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Reuters also contributed to this report.
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