Palestinians in a ‘day of rage’

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JERUSALEM — Palestinians called for a “day of rage” yesterday and Israeli police deployed in large numbers as US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital sent shockwaves through the region for a second day.

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.

The UN Security Council was to meet 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 in the region was being
closely watched.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, was calling for a “day of rage” after its leader Ismail Haniya said a new intifada, or uprising, should be launched over Trump’s declaration.

Protests were being planned for after the main weekly Muslim prayers at midday after a series of demonstrations and sporadic, low-intensity clashes broke out in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

Some 22 Palestinians were wounded from rubber bullets or live fire on Thursday.

Several hundred additional police were deployed in and around east Jerusalem’s ancient Old City, the location of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam and where thousands typically attend the main weekly prayers.

Israel’s military has also deployed hundreds of reinforcements to the West Bank amid uncertainty over the fallout.

The situation was calm in Jerusalem yesterday morning.

Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been met by a worldwide diplomatic backlash, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lavished praise on the president and called the
declaration “historic”.

For Jewish Israelis, the declaration is a simple recognition of reality and validation of their view that Jerusalem is their 3,000-year-old capital.

Trump said his defiant move — making good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge —marks the start of a “new approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But many analysts question how a fair peace process could be possible by granting such a major Israeli demand while seeming to require nothing in return.

Israel has long claimed all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

Its status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and international consensus has been that it must be negotiated between the two sides.

Trump’s declaration and intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem are moves that may help him domestically since they were long-sought by US evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters — key parts of his base
of supporters.

But while the declaration may mean little immediate concrete change, it risks setting off another round of bloodshed in the turbulent Middle East. — AFP