Israeli forces kill at least two Palestinians during clashes over Jerusalem
Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man on Friday near the Gaza border in clashes over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The ministry confirmed Mahmoud al Masri, 30, was killed in clashes along the Israeli-Gaza border.
Later in the day, a second Palestinian was killed in Gaza in the ongoing clashes with Israeli forces, the health ministry said.
A statement from Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al Qudra announced the death of “Maher Atallah, 54, in the northern Gaza Strip who was injured in clashes this evening”.
Thousands of Palestinians protested in a “day of rage” on Friday in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the ancient city as Israel’s capital.
The ministry said al Masri died after being struck by live fire east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip, and that more than 250 Palestinians were injured, two of them seriously. A TRT World reporter on ground in Ramallah says over 400 people were injured.
The Israeli army confirmed it had shot two people, accusing them of being “main instigators” of “violent riots.”
‘Day of rage’
Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Friday, the Muslim holy day, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and outrage at the US move.
As Friday prayers ended at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, worshippers made their way toward the walled Old City gates, chanting “Jerusalem is ours, Jerusalem is our capital,” and “We don’t need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs.”
Some scuffles broke out between protesters and police.
TRT World’s Middle East correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd reports from Occupied East Jerusalem.
Reversing decades of US policy
Trump’s decision to reverse decades of US policy and recognise Jerusalem has been met by days of protests, although violence so far has largely been contained.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem would probably not take place for at least two years.
“This is not something that is going to happen this year or probably not next year but the president does want us to move in a very concrete, very steadfast way,” Tillerson said after talks in Paris with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
In his speech on Wednesday, Trump did not include words echoing Israel’s traditional description of Jerusalem. Asked about this, Israeli cabinet minister Zeev Elkin said, “I think that his leaving this out of the speech was premeditated.”
“He even hinted that borders in Jerusalem will also be set as a result of negotiations, which presupposes an option of partition,” said Elkin, who holds the Jerusalem Affairs portfolio in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Elkin was referring to Trump’s caveat that the new US decision on Jerusalem did not constitute “taking a position of any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders.”
“Those questions are up to the parties involved,” added Trump, who said Washington still wanted Israelis and Palestinians to agree on a “two-state solution” for peace.
A new intifada?
In Gaza, calls for worshippers to protest sounded over mosque loudspeakers and dozens of youths burnt tyres on the main streets of the enclave, controlled by Hamas, and hundreds rallied toward the border with Israel.
Hamas has called for a new Palestinian uprising like the “intifadas” of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005 that together saw thousands of Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis killed.
“Whoever moves his embassy to occupied Jerusalem will become an enemy of the Palestinians and a target of Palestinian factions,” said Hamas leader Fathy Hammad as protesters in Gaza burnt posters of Trump. “We declare an intifada until the liberation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine.”
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies.
The status of Jerusalem has been one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for generations.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state of their own.
Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed, to be occupied territory, including the Old City, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
For decades, Washington, like most of the rest of the international community, held back from recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, arguing that its status should be determined as part of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. No other country has its embassy there.
The Trump administration argues that the peace process has become moribund, and outdated policies need to be jettisoned for the sides in the conflict to make progress.
In Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, the leader’s religious affairs adviser said Trump’s stance was an affront to Islam and Christianity alike.
“America has chosen to elect a president that has put it in enmity with all Muslims and Christians,” said the advisor, Mahmoud al Habbash.
Israeli police increased their presence in Jerusalem but set no extra restrictions on access for worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque, saying they had no indication of unrest there, a sign they anticipated confrontation to be limited. Police regularly impose age restrictions at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, when they anticipate major unrest.
In Iran, which has never recognised Israel and supports anti-Israel militants, demonstrators burned pictures of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while chanting “Death to the Devil”. Opposition to the US move has united Iran’s pragmatist faction, which supports greater openness to the outside world, behind hardliners that oppose it.
In Cairo, capital of Egypt, a US ally which has a peace treaty with Israel, hundreds of protesters who had gathered in Al Azhar mosque and outside in its courtyard chanted “Jerusalem is Arab! O Trump, you madman, the Arab people are everywhere!”
The imam leading Friday prayer at Al Azhar said the US plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem was a “terrorist decision” that would add another settlement to those of Israel.