Four Palestinians killed in new wave of violence

GAZA CITY – Four Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded Friday in violence with Israeli forces across the Palestinian territories, as tens of thousands of people joined new protests against Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

US President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement that he would break with decades of American policy and move his embassy to Jerusalem has stirred international condemnation, as well as protests across the Palestinian territories and Arab world.

Demonstrators have burned American and Israeli flags and trampled on pictures of Trump amid concerns his announcement would lead to major bloodshed.

On Friday three men were killed in violent clashes between Israeli troops and stone-throwing Palestinians.

Two died along the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian health ministry said, as the Hamas Islamist group that rules the enclave had called for another “day of rage” against Trump’s decision.

A third was killed in clashes north of Jerusalem after being shot dead in the chest by the Israeli army, the health ministry said.

The fourth man stabbed an Israeli border police officer near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, before being shot, police said.

The assailant, who later died of his wounds, wore what appeared to be a suicide vest, though it was unclear if it was operational. The violence comes days before US Vice President Mike Pence is due to visit Israel, though he will no longer meet with Palestinian officials after they cancelled meetings in protest at the embassy move.

Protests broke out across the West Bank, with major ones taking place in Hebron and Nablus, after the end of the weekly Muslim prayers, often a catalyst for clashes between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

In Gaza, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and a few thousand clashed with Israeli forces along different parts of the border.

The Palestinian health ministry said 164 people were injured in Gaza, with five in serious condition, while more than 100 were hospitalised across the West Bank The Israeli army said around 2,500 people were involved in “riots” across the West Bank and about 3,500 in Gaza. In Jerusalem itself, there were minor scuffles in the Old City after Friday prayers.

Friday’s death brought to eight the number of Palestinians killed in violence or air strikes since Trump’s Jerusalem move. Four men were killed in Gaza last week, with two involved in protests and two Hamas militants killed in an Israeli air strike.

In Jordan, thousands of people also demonstrated on Friday in the latest round of protests called by the Muslim Brotherhood, burning Israeli and American flags.

The diplomatic fallout also continued, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying Trump’s decision was a “bomb” thrown at the entire Middle East.

Reaffirming his past accusations that Israel is a “terror state” because of its treatment of the Palestinians, Erdogan said Friday: “Trying to make Jerusalem capital of a terror state is not a situation that can be accepted by Muslims.” The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

For decades global powers have avoided taking an opinion, keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv instead.

Trump declared, however, that he would move the embassy and has recognised the city as Israel’s capital.

Amid condemnation from much of the international community, the Palestinians have announced they will no longer view the Americans as a mediator in negotiations with the Israelis.

On Friday, the Holy See said that Pope Francis would meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Vatical next week.

Abdullah, the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, and the pope have both voiced deep concern over Trump’s move.

A poll conducted after Trump’s announcement by the respected Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 45 percent of Palestinians supported a violent popular uprising, up from 35 percent three months previously.

Khalil Shikaki, the centre’s director, said the “only possible explanation” for the increase was Trump’s decision.

He said, however, the effectiveness of the Israeli forces and the Palestinian security forces’ ongoing cooperation with them had ensured the protests in the West Bank remained relatively minor.

While angered by Trump’s declaration, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has not instructed his party Fatah or security forces to cut ties with Israel.

“Hamas is too weak in the West Bank to carry out any serious attacks (and) Fatah does not want to engage in violence,” Shikaki said. “This is not likely to change any time soon.”

In Gaza, hermetically sealed off by Israel and Egypt, at least 12 rockets or mortar rounds have been fired from the territory since Trump’s announcement, with Israel hitting at least 10 sites in reply.



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