Palestinian protesters hurt as Israeli troops use force

GAZA: Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank on Friday in what they said was a protest against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Such clashes occur weekly, but tensions have risen following US President Donald Trump’s announcement on December 6, which stirred anger across the Arab and Muslim world and concern among Washington’s European allies as well as Russia.
The move was welcomed by Israel.
“There is almost nothing left for the United States to do before it clearly declares a state of war against the Palestinian people, its authority and leadership,” wrote commentator Rajab Abu Serreya in the widely-circulated Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam.
A total of 17 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed in the flare-up since Trump’s announcement, though analysts say neither Israel nor the Palestinians are interested in a major escalation.
A few hundred Gazans approached the border fence with Israel, throwing stones at soldiers who tried to disperse them by firing canisters of tear gas, according to Reuters video. Smaller crowds gathered in a couple of West Bank cities where protesters threw stones and burned tyres. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and threw stun grenades.
East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want for the capital of a Palestinian state, was captured by Israel in the 1967 war and later annexed, though that action has not been internationally recognised.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have collapsed, partly due to Israeli settlement building on occupied land and to Israeli concerns over contact between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Palestinian medical officials said 14 Palestinians were wounded by live ammunition in Friday’s clash. An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking the reports.
“We want the Americans to know that the bloodshed here of unarmed people is on the hands of their president,” said Ali, a 20-year-old university student in Gaza who did not want to give his family name.
PALESTINIAN LEADERS TO MEET: Senior Palestinian leaders will meet in Ramallah on Sunday to debate responses to Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Among the options to be considered is the potential suspension of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) recognition of Israel, delegates said.
Such a move could call into question a founding principle of the peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians and threaten decades of agreements with Israel, including on security.
Scepticism is widespread that the leadership will follow through with such an unpredictable step, but the fact that it is being discussed will be taken as a measure of the level of anger towards the Trump administration.
The two-day meeting of the Palestinian Central Council will begin late on Sunday, with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas expected to open with a brief address.
The 121-member council is a high-ranking arm of the PLO, the internationally recognised representative of the Palestinian people, and includes members of different parties.
Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has infuriated the Palestinian leadership, who see at least the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state they have sought to gain through American-led negotiations.
His administration has also not publicly committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and the PLO office in Washington was briefly closed down.
Abbas has said after the recognition the Americans can no longer play a role as mediator, and is expected to shun Trump’s Vice-President Mike Pence when he visits Israel on January 22-23.
Ahmed Majdalani, a senior PLO official, told AFP that a committee created to formulate responses to Trump’s announcement would recommend redefining the Palestinian relationship with Israel. — Agencies

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