(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank this month, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday, as Palestinian protests continued in the aftermath of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Some 600 Palestinians held violent protests at some 20 spots in the West Bank, confronting security forces, and another 400 protested in Gaza, the IDF said. There were also protests involving dozens of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. As of late afternoon, however, the protests were markedly less intense than on Friday, when some 5,000 Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli security officials expect the protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Saturday afternoon, but do not anticipate a major escalation.
Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said that Abbas won’t meet Pence “because the US has crossed red lines” on Jerusalem.
Abbas had viewed close ties with Washington as strategically important because of the US role as Mideast broker. The snub of Pence signaled a sharp deterioration in relations.
The White House warned on Thursday that canceling the meeting planned for later this month in the West Bank would be “counterproductive”, but Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to shun Pence.
Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah party, had said Friday that Pence was “not welcome in Palestine.”
Demonstrations continued Saturday as Palestinians called for a further “Day of Rage” to protest Trump’s decision.
In Gaza, where four people have been killed — two Hamas gunmen killed in an airstrike on one of the terror group’s camps, and two who were shot during Friday’s protests — hundreds of Palestinians were protesting near the border fence with Israel and at the funerals for the dead.
One Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire in a demonstration by the fence in southern Gaza, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada, urged Palestinians to confront Israeli soldiers and settlers, and vowed to continue violence until the liberation of Jerusalem.
In East Jerusalem on Saturday, dozens of youths tried to block a main road and confront policemen, who were guarding the area. The crowd, which threw stones and other objects, was dispersed, police said, and six Palestinians were arrested. Two police officers were injured by stone-throwers.
Video showed horse-mounted police officers charging into crowds of people.
In the West Bank, there were clashes near the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, where soldiers were using tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to turn back demonstrators who were throwing rocks and petrol bombs and burning tires. At least 10 Palestinians were lightly hurt, most by smoke inhalation, Israel Radio reported.
There were several smaller protests in the cities of Tulkarem and Hebron, with no immediate reports of injuries.
The IDF said a total of 600 Palestinians took part in the West Bank protests at 20 locations. One person was arrested and three were wounded, the army said.
Meanwhile some 100 people protested in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel.
In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.
The move was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
Friday saw some 5,000 Palestinian protesters demonstrating and clashing with Israeli security forces at almost 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midday prayers.
Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel, with one landing in the southern town of Sderot; Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas targets. On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said two Hamas gunmen were killed in one of the strikes on a Hamas facility in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.
The rocket on Sderot caused minor damage, and no injuries.
The Israeli army had said it was braced for more protests on Saturday, and it stepped up the deployment of troops at West Bank settlements in an attempt to thwart any attempted terror attacks. It said the 5,000 demonstrators on Friday marked a lower number than anticipated, but expected protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Friday night.
The army was expected to hold a review of the situation on Saturday evening and decide on the continued deployment of additional troops in the area, Israel Radio said Saturday.
On Friday, Hamas called on the Palestinian public to confront IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers across the West Bank in demonstrations on Saturday.
In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.
Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”
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