US Jerusalem move sparks Israeli-Palestinian clashes

JERUSALEM/GAZA: The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians on Thursday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian factions called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday, and on Thursday a wave of protest in the West Bank and Gaza brought clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops. At least 31 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire and rubber bullets, medics said, adding, one of them was in critical condition.

The Israeli military said on Thursday that two rockets had been fired towards Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but did not cross into Israeli territory. The military said it was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank.

Trump reversed decades of US policy on Wednesday by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, angering the Arab world and upsetting Western allies. The status of Jerusalem — home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions — is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech in Gaza. On Friday’s “Day of Rage”, rallies and protests are expected near Israeli-controlled checkpoints in the West Bank and along the border with Gaza. Friday prayers at the Muslim shrine of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem could also be a flashpoint.

Naser Al-Qidwa, an aide to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and senior official in his Fatah party, urged Palestinians to stage protests but said they should be peaceful.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said: “The EU has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both.” The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is likely to meet on Friday to discuss the US decision.

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