‘Day of rage’ sweeps Muslim world against Trump’s Jerusalem move
Jerusalem/AMMAN – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Muslim and Arab countries across the world Friday to protest against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians.
Demonstrators at the protests which followed the weekly prayers in mosques vented their anger at the unilateral decision which has sparked widespread international criticism.
In the Palestinian territories at least one Palestinian was killed in clashes with Israeli troops.
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday prompted an almost universal diplomatic backlash, including warnings from Turkey, the European Union and Russia over the risks of fresh violence in the Middle East.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine,” chanted crowds in Jordan, one of only two Arab states to have made peace with Israel, where an estimated 20,000 people poured into the streets of Amman and other cities, AFP correspondents said.
They carried banners reading “Go to Hell!,” directed at Israel and the United States, and set ablaze the two countries’ flags.
Hundreds of demonstrators, circled by anti-riot police, also gathered outside Al-Azhar mosque in the capital of Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state.
“We will sacrifice our soul, our blood for you, Al-Aqsa,” they pledged, referring to the mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem that is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians demonstrated in Lebanon and its refugee camps, while similar joint protests were staged in Syria despite the country’s brutal war.
In another war-torn country, thousands of Yemeni rebel supporters rallied in Sanaa under the banner “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine”. “This case belongs to all Muslims and no one has the right to sell it out,” Mohammed Ali al-Huthi, a Huthi rebel leader, shouted to the crowd.
“Jerusalem is ours and Jerusalem belongs to the Arabs,” hundreds of Iraqi demonstrators chanted in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, where Israeli and American flags were also torched.
“Death to America! Death to Israel!” was the rallying cry as thousands demonstrated in Tehran and other Iranian cities. Several banners read: “We will stand tall until the destruction of Israel.” Thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters marched after prayers at the Ottoman Fatih mosque in the centre of Istanbul. “We consider Jerusalem as the bastion of the Muslim community … We are here to show our unity and our strength,” said protester Doguhan, 17.
In Asia, thousands of protesters demonstrated outside the US embassy in Malaysia, condemning Trump’s decision as a “slap in the face” for Muslims worldwide. They carried banners that read: “Hands off Jerusalem” and “Down USA President Trump”.
In neighbouring Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, several hundred people demonstrated outside the US embassy in Jakarta, unfurling a large Palestinian flag.
In Afghanistan, more than 1,000 protesters hit the streets after Friday prayers in Kabul. They burnt effigies of Trump as well as American and Israeli flags. A few dozen tried to reach the heavily-barricaded US embassy, but were pushed back by local security forces. Around 2,500 demonstrators also protested in the western city of Herat, an AFP correspondent reported.
Hundreds took to the streets in Pakistan, including in the capital Islamabad. The protesters chanted “Death to Trump” and “Trump is mad.”
Meanwhile, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces left one person dead after calls for a “day of rage”.
Diplomatic fallout from the deeply controversial declaration also continued, with suggestions Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas could refuse to meet US Vice President Mike Pence on his visit to the region later this month.
Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb cancelled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence. In a statement, Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni institution, said Tayeb had reversed his previous decision to meet Pence, who is due to travel to Egypt and Israel in the second half of December.
The UN Security Council was meeting Friday in an emergency session to discuss Trump’s move, which has drawn near universal condemnation, including from United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Whether unrest would spread and spiral both in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere was being closely watched, with Friday marking a second day of unrest.
Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, had called for a “day of rage” after its leader Ismail Haniya said a new intifada, or uprising, should begin.
The Palestinian killed in clashes along Israel’s border with Gaza was the first death linked to protests since Trump’s declaration on Wednesday. A second Palestinian in Gaza was in “very critical” condition after being shot in the head during the clashes.
The Israeli army said around 4,500 Palestinians “participated in violent riots at six locations along the border with the Gaza Strip”. It said that troops shot at “dozens” of people along the Gaza border, but did not specify how many were wounded. “During the riots soldiers fired selectively towards dozens of main instigators and hits were confirmed,” an English-language statement said.
On Friday evening, Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket at Israel which was shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the army said. The army said thousands of Palestinians took part in “violent riots” throughout the West Bank. “During the course of the day 28 rioters were arrested and approximately 65 were injured,” it said, without elaborating.
Palestinian leaders have been so outraged that they have argued it disqualifies the United States from its traditional role as peace broker in the Middle East conflict.
Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official who has been involved in past peace talks, questioned what was left to negotiate. “If these are the signs of the ultimate deal, God knows what the deal is going to be,” he said, referring to Trump’s pledge to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. “Maybe the expulsion of the Palestinians – God knows where.”
A White House aide said Pence “still plans to meet with Abbas as scheduled”, and “believes it would be counterproductive for him to pull out of the meeting”.
Meanwhile five European countries said President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is “not in line” with UN Security Council resolutions and is “unhelpful”.
The UN envoys from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden also said the move was “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region,” in a joint statement issued after emergency Security Council talks on the issue.