Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel capital sparks West Bank clashes

UN security council to meet to discuss US decision amid widespread international condemnation and violence in occupied territories

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 ‘What approach is this?’: world leaders rebuke Trump over Jerusalem decision – video report 

Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops have taken place in cities across the occupied West Bank as anger over Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital spilled on to the streets.

The most violent confrontations occurred in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron, where Israeli security forces fired teargas and plastic-coated rounds as hundreds of protesters threw stones and set alight barricades.

In the Gaza Strip, dozens of protesters gathered near the border fence with Israeland threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Two protesters were wounded by live fire, with one reported to be in a critical condition.

A fresh round of violent protests are expected on Friday at mass demonstrations called to follow Friday prayers.

A Palestinian protester takes cover during clashes with Israeli troops in Beit El, near Ramallah.
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 A Palestinian protester takes cover during clashes with Israeli troops in Beit El, near Ramallah. Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

The confrontations took place as a meeting of the UN security council was called for Friday to discuss Trump’s decision, condemnation of which continues to mount across the Middle East and internationally.

Eight countries on the 15-member council requested the meeting, including the UK, Italy and France, amid claims from Palestine and Turkey that recognition by the US president is in breach of both international law and UN resolutions.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc had a united position that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state. France said it rejected the “unilateral” US decision while the UK prime minister, Theresa May, and the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, both described Trump’s announcement as “unhelpful”.

The Russian foreign ministry said US recognition risked “dangerous and uncontrollable consequences”.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hailed US recognition of Jerusalem as “historic” and claimed other countries were in contact about following Trump’s lead, but was alone among regional leaders in praising the move.

Saudi Arabia’s royal court called it “unjustified and irresponsible” in a rare rebuke of the US, and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Trump had thrown the Middle East into a “ring of fire”.

Thursday’s confrontations on the West Bank took place during a widely observed general strike that shuttered Palestinian shops and closed schools. The presence of Palestinian police in plain clothes and armed security forces in uniform nearby, however, suggested a degree of control by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

The scale of the protests and level of violence, however, noticeably fell short of similar clashes at the height of the second intifada.

At one large confrontation in Ramallah, a group of three teenage girls, their faces masked with headscarves, told reporters that “Trump could go to hell.”

In Jerusalem’s Old City, where most Palestinian shops were shut, Salah Zuhikeh, 55, told AFP: “By this decision, America became a very small country, like any small country in the world, like Micronesia. America was a great country for us and everyone.”

The US president defied overwhelming global opposition by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and directing the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering,” he said in a short speech at the White House on Wednesday. “My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

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 ‘It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’ says Trump – video

It later emerged, in a memo leaked to Reuters news agency, that the US had privately asked Israel to temper its response to the announcemen

The state department document, dated 6 December, stated in talking points for diplomats at the US embassy in Tel Aviv to convey to Israeli officials: “While I recognise that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response.”

It continued: “We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on US facilities and personnel overseas.”

A second state department memo seen by Reuters asked European officials to argue that Trump’s decision did not prejudge the “final status” issue of Jerusalem’s sovereignty, which needed to be resolved in any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.

“You are in a key position to influence international reaction to this announcement and we are asking you to amplify the reality that Jerusalem is still a final status issue between Israelis and Palestinians and that the parties must resolve the dimensions of Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem during their negotiations,” it said.

“You know that this is a unique administration. It makes bold moves. But it is bold moves that are going to be needed if peace efforts are finally going to be successful.”

Details of the memos emerged as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was due to travel to Jordan on Thursday for talks with King Abdullah II, who has come out strongly against the move.

The United Arab Emirates and Iraq also condemned the decision. In Iraq, a prominent militia backed by Iran, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, said Trump’s decision could be a “legitimate reason” to attack US forces in the country.

Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Israel deems Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital dating to antiquity, and its status is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Its eastern side was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognised internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of a future independent state.

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