Protests flare in Mideast after Trump's Jerusalem pronouncementDecember 8, 2017 12:46am

Dec. 07-- RAMALLAH, West Bank-Protests erupted throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and cities across the Middle East on Thursday in what was dubbed a "day of rage" after President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Trump announced Wednesday that he would "officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital," sparking worldwide outrage, including from Washington's closest allies in the region. Some Palestinian leaders called for a new intifada, or uprising, in response to the controversial move.

In the wake of his speech, Palestinian factions called for a general strike on Thursday, while the Palestinian Education Ministry canceled classes so students and teachers could participate in the demonstrations.

Thousands of residents poured into major thoroughfares in Ramallah, Jericho, Hebron, Bethlehem as well as East Jerusalem's Damascus Gate. The eastern, Arab-dominated part of Jerusalem was hoped to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

"How can the president of the United States flout international resolutions and ignore the feelings of millions of Arabs and Muslims?" asked Suha Arrar, a 43-year-old employee at the Palestinian Ministry of Health. She added that she had come out to protest "the unprecedented arrogance of the U.S. administration."

Ahmed Ghneim, a leader with the Palestinian faction Fatah, expressed his rejection of the Trump decision, adding that the "honeymoon" between Trump and Netanyahu would not come without costs.

"For 30 years, the Palestinian leadership thought the U.S. was the key to the solution," he said. "Trump's decision proved this key is not suitable for any solution."

Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian politician in the West Bank, insisted that Trump's decision "forbids Palestinians from having any contact with the U.S.," which, he said, "has completely lost its role as a broker of the peace process."

"We must now unite behind an uprising that is based on nonviolence as Palestinian protests succeeded in removing the electronic gates at the entrance to the Aqsa Mosque in the summer," Barghouthi said.

Clashes flared between the protesters and Israeli troops, who deployed water cannons and fired what appeared to be rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said in a statement Thursday it had treated more than 108 wounded in Gaza and the West Bank, adding that a number had been shot with live ammunition.

Ismail Haniyah, head of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, said Trump's announcement marked "a new equation" in the "Satanic alliance" between the U.S and Israel that could "only be confronted by launching the spark of a new intifada." He added that Jerusalem was "unified," and was Palestinian.

"There is no existence for Israel on the land of Palestine. It has no presence on the land of Palestine for it to have a capital," he said. "We declare ... that what is called the peace process has been buried ... and forever."

Meanwhile, Palestinian president and head of Fatah Mahmoud Abbas began a round of diplomatic maneuvering by meeting Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman on Thursday, where police had cut off roads leading to the U.S. Embassy in the West Amman neighborhood of Abdoun to prevent protesters from reaching its grounds.

Both leaders, according to a statement issued by Jordanian state operator Petra, "affirmed that any measure to tamper with the historical and legal status of Jerusalem is null and void and will only lead to more tension and violence in the region and the world."

Regional leaders echoed the sentiment, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying on Thursday it was a "step that would throw ... this region into a ring of fire."

"What would you like to do (with this step), Mr. Trump? What kind of stance is it?" said Erdogan in a press conference in Ankara, according to Turkish state news operator Anadolu.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for his "historic announcement," insisting that other countries would soon follow suit and move their embassies to Jerusalem.


(Zedan and Bulos are special correspondents.)


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