Destabilizing the peace process: Palestinian protesters engage Israeli troops to protest U.S. President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
Protesters clashed with Israeli police and dozens were injured in Bethlehem and other cities on Thursday as demonstrations were held in response to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The protests spilled out on the streets n cities across the occupied West Bank as anger over the US presidents pronouncements on Wednesday appears to have tilted the fragile peace process in the Middle East.
The most violent confrontations occurred in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron, where Israeli security forces fired teargas and plastic-coated rounds at hundreds of protesters.
In the Gaza Strip, dozens of protesters gathered near the border fence with Israel and threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Two protesters were wounded by live fire, with one reported to be in a critical condition.
Palestinian protesters lobbed rocks at troops and police officers and set fire to tires and other debris blocking roadways in cities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Thick plumes of smoke hung in the air above Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government.
The general sense of chaos spread to the Israeli capital as Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades at crowds near a check point in the city, leaving dozens of people injured.
A fresh round of violent protests are expected on Friday at mass demonstrations called to follow Friday prayers.
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops in Beit El, near Ramallah on Thursday
Demonstrators at the impromptu rallies burned posters of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with Israeli and American flags.
Tensions were high at checkpoints along the border fence separating Israel from Gaza in East Jerusalem as well.
Trump’s defiant move a day earlier, which frustrated many world leaders who warned of potential violence, led to anger across the Arab world.
Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the site of their own future capital, were preparing for days of protest.
The Palestinian Authority called for a general strike as extremist and terrorist groups vowed a violent rebuttal.
President Trump believes recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “marks the beginning of a new [effective], approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians”
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“Our people and factions of the resistance are in a permanent meeting to follow developments to confront this strategic threat that threatens the city of Jerusalem,” he added.
Trump on Wednesday defied worldwide warnings and the advise of key members of his administration, announcing that the U.S. would not only recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering,” Trump said in a short speech at the White House on Wednesday.
“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
He also said that the American embassy will be relocated from Tel Aviv, without a specific timeline. Trump pointed out the earlier approaches adopted by his predecessors insisted have resulted in repeated failures in bringing peace to the region, insisting it was time for a new approach.The move has left analysts and policy wonks in U.S. scratching their heads trying to figure out the game plan, the quid for the quo.
Some critics have described the move as fulfilling the wishes of big donors who hold the move dear to their hearts.
Meanwhile the international backlash has been scathing, with The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc had a united position that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.
EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini: ‘The bloc is united in it’s position that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.’
The Russian foreign ministry said US recognition risked “dangerous and uncontrollable consequences”.
Reuters reports that the Trump administration had asked the Israeli government to temper their response to the announcement and said that there were concerns about violence.
“We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on U.S. facilities and personnel overseas,” the documents said.
U.S. Embassies across much of the Middle East and parts of Africa has similarly warned American citizens of possible protests following Trump’s decision.
The unrest in the region took place as a meeting of the UN security council was called for Friday to discuss Trump’s decision, amidst mounting condemnation across the Middle East and among major international players.
Eight countries on the 15-member council requested the meeting, including the UK, Italy and France, amid claims from Palestine and Turkey that recognition by the US president is in breach of both international law and UN resolutions.
While in Israel, prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hailed US recognition of Jerusalem as “historic” and claimed other countries were in contact about following Trump’s lead, but was alone among regional leaders in praising the move, The Saudi royal court, in a rare rebuke of the US, called the announcement “unjustified and irresponsible” , with Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accusing president Trump of throwing the Middle East into a “ring of fire”.