Israeli Planes Hit Gaza as Jerusalem Crisis Spurs More Violence
At least two people died in Gaza following muslim protests to Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
(Bloomberg) -- Israeli fighter jets struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, killing at least two people, in response to rockets fired by Palestinian protesters into Israel.
The clashes came as Muslims took to the streets from the West Bank to Jakarta on Friday to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Violence associated with the “Day of Rage” called for in Palestinian territories intensified as the day wore on.
Dozens of Palestinians were injured in the day’s skirmishes in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry said. Israeli planes targeted a Hamas training compound and an ammunition warehouse in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement.
Israel earlier said it intercepted a rocket lobbed by Gaza militants at southern Israel. Another rocket hit the Israeli city of Sderot, just across the border, damaging cars.
For Palestinians, Trump’s declaration on Wednesday stung because they claim the eastern sector of the capital, with its shrines sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, as the capital of a future state. In demonstrations in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, one protester was killed and three were critically wounded in confrontations with Israeli forces, according to revised figures from the Gaza Health Ministry.
Call for Uprising
On Thursday, Hamas had called for a new uprising, or intifada, against Israel in response to Trump’s move, and mosques on Friday appealed by loudspeaker for residents to rally in defense of Jerusalem.
“For those in the American administration who believe that our position can end with demonstrations will be mistaken,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, speaking on the group’s Al-Quds television, vowing that the “endgame” will be to “liberate Jerusalem and all the land of Palestine.”
About 3,000 protesters also clashed with Israeli forces in more than two dozen locations in the West Bank, the Israeli military said, lobbing rocks and firebombs and rolling burning tires. In Jerusalem, where Israeli police had added reinforcements, no serious disturbances were reported.
Trump’s landmark announcement on Wednesday, including starting the process of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, was a stark departure from nearly 70 years of U.S. policy. Predecessors had made similar promises but ultimately balked, fearful of inflaming Muslim passions and alienating Muslim partners. Muslim and European allies denounced the move.
In Paris on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the embassy move wouldn’t take place this year or next, due to the complex logistics involved.
Trump appears to be betting that key Arab allies in the Middle East won’t take drastic action, either because they’re too distracted by other regional disputes or because they don’t want to risk jeopardizing U.S. support against Iran and Islamist extremists.
“There’s fatigue and saturation in the region,” said Kamran Bokhari, a senior analyst at Geopolitical Futures and senior fellow with the Center for Global Policy. “So much is happening. You cannot mobilize people. There’s immense fragmentation in the Arab Muslim world on many issues.”
Bokhari also said the measured response of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who called for protests on Dec. 11 in the group’s southern Beirut bastion, showed that the issue was seen as a distraction for Iran and its allies. “They’ll use it, but they’re not going to expend so many resources on Jerusalem because the dividend and payoff is low,” he said.
Still, the move has drawn criticism across the Muslim world, where demonstrators turned out in greater force on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Hundreds protested outside the U.S. embassies in Malaysia and Indonesia. Protesters also gathered in Baghdad, southern Lebanon and Iran, Hezbollah-affiliated Mayadeen TV reported.
In one Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, demonstrators stomped on a picture of Trump and in predominantly Palestinian Jordan, thousands rallied in the capital, Amman, and elsewhere around the country, and some protesters burned U.S and Israeli flags.
Hundreds of protesters poured out of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo after Friday prayers, some carrying Palestinian flags and chanting, “with soul, with blood, we will avenge you, oh Palestine.”
In Tunisia, President Beji Caid Essebsi summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain about the decision, adviser Noureddine Ben Ticha told Radio Chams.
Thousands of Shiite Houthis protested in Yemen, including in the capital, Sana’a, and other cities, according to the rebel-affiliated al-Masirah TV. Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi called on Arabs to besiege U.S. embassies until the decision on Jerusalem was reversed, it reported.
While Trump said his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital wasn’t meant to prejudge a final resolution of the city’s status, Palestinians saw the move as an American adoption of Israel’s position, and some officials have declared peace efforts over.
“Any Palestinian who sits with any U.S. party on the peace process would be recognizing Trump’s decision,” chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an interview on Russia’s RT Arabic television.
On Thursday, Hamas called for a third intifada although it wasn’t clear the appeal would resonate. Thousands of Palestinians and Israelis were killed in two earlier uprisings against Israel.
Protesters may come out in greater numbers if there was a major security incident, said Bokhari of Geopolitical Futures. “Maybe this is the calm before the storm,” he said. “You can never be sure.”
--With assistance from Donna Abu-Nasr Lin Noueihed Mohammad Tayseer and Mohammed Hatem
To contact the reporters on this story: Amy Teibel in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org, Fadwa Hodali in Ramallah at email@example.com, Saud Abu Ramadan in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at email@example.com, Ros Krasny, Justin Blum
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