Tuesday 16 October 2018

US prepares for embassy backlash as Hamas chief calls for a 'day of rage'

Palestinian protesters burn US and Israeli flags in Gaza City
Palestinian protesters burn US and Israeli flags in Gaza City

Islamist group Hamas has urged Palestinians to launch a new uprising against Israel in response to US president Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

The Israeli military said it was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank, deploying new army battalions and putting other forces on standby as part of its "readiness for possible developments".

Medics said at least 31 people were wounded by Israeli army gunfire when Palestinian protests erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday.

Eleven were hit by live bull-ets, 20 by rubber bullets and one person was in a critical condition.

Some protesters threw rocks at soldiers and others chanted: "Death to America! Death to the fool Trump!"

Mr Trump reversed decades of US policy on Wednesday by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperilling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and western allies alike.

"We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in Gaza.

He urged Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs to hold rallies today against the US decision, calling it a "day of rage".


Naser Al-Qidwa, an aide to western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and senior official in his Fatah party, urged Palestinians to stage peaceful protests.

Israel and the United States consider Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2007, a terrorist organisation.

The US is asking Israel to temper its responses.

Washington expects a backlash and is weighing the potential threat to the US.

The status of Jerusalem, which is holy for Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, is one of the biggest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hamas does not recognise Israel's right to exist. Its suicide bombings helped to spearhead the last intifada, from 2000 to 2005.

Fearing that recrimination could disrupt reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian prime minister Rami Al-Hamdallah and other Fatah delegates arrived in Gaza yesterday to meet Hamas.

The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations.

No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.

Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city's eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognised internationally.

Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital.

Trump's move fulfils a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals, who make up a large portion of his domestic support.

He said his move was not intended to tip the scale in favour of Israel, and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.

However, the move was seen almost uniformly in Arab capitals as a sharp tilt towards Israel.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah lawmakers said the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital constituted aggression against Palestinians and resistance was the only way to recover lost rights. Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006.

Protests broke out in areas of Jordan's capital, Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees, and several hundred protesters gathered outside the US consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday after Trump's announcement.


Other close western allies of Washington, including France and Britain, have been critical of Trump's move.

Pope Francis has called for Jerusalem's status quo to be respected, while China and Russia have also expressed their concern.

The embassy move, which is expected to take years, was one that Trump's predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.

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