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Fresh protests erupt in Palestine against Trump’s Jerusalem decision

JERUSALEM: Thousands of Palestinians took part in fresh protests Friday against Washington’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but a week on there is no sign of a threatened new intifada.

US President Donald Trump’s December 6 announcement that he would break with decades of American policy and move his embassy to Jerusalem has stirred international condemnation, as well as protests across the Palestinian territories and Arab world.

Four Palestinians have been killed, with more than 1000 wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Protesters have burned American and Israeli flags and trampled on pictures of Trump. There are concerns that the decision would lead to a major wave of bloodshed.

Read More: Muslim leaders urge recognition of East Jerusalem as Palestine capital

Protests broke out across the Palestinian territories for the second Friday in a row after the end of weekly Muslim prayers, often a catalyst for clashes between young Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.

In Gaza, the strip’s local rulers Hamas had called for another ‘day of rage’ against the decision, with tens of thousands taking to the streets.

Clashes were expected along the border with Israel later Friday.

In the occupied West Bank, thousands of people gathered in the southern city of Hebron, as well as Nablus in the north, with clashes near the Al-Arroub camp, south of Bethlehem.

In Jerusalem itself, around 30,000 people prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims, the Islamic organisation that administers the site said.

The vast majority left without incident, but small scuffles broke out in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Nothing burger

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

For decades global powers have avoided taking an opinion, keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv instead.

Trump declared, however, that he would move the embassy and recognised the city as Israel’s capital.

Amid condemnation from much of the international community, the Palestinians have announced they will no longer view the Americans as mediator in negotiations with the Israelis.

Read More: Erdogan says Turkey seeking to annul Trump decision on Jerusalem at UN

A poll conducted after Trump’s announcement by the respected Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found 45 percent of Palestinians supported a violent popular uprising, up from 35 percent three months prior.

Khalil Shikaki, the center’s director, said the “only possible explanation” for the increase was Trump’s decision.

He said, however, the effectiveness of the Israeli forces and the Palestinian security forces’ ongoing security cooperation with them had ensured the protests in the West Bank remained relatively minor in scale.

While angered by Trump’s declaration, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has not instructed his party Fatah or security forces to cut ties with Israel.

“Hamas is too weak in the West Bank to carry out any serious attacks (and) Fatah does not want to engage in violence,” Shikaki said.

“This is not likely to change any time soon.”

In Gaza, hermetically sealed off by Israel and Egypt, at least 12 rockets or mortars have been fired from the territory since Trump’s announcement, with Israel hitting at least 10 sites in reply.

But the response has been relatively muted compared to some of the warnings, said Ofer Zalzberg, Israel-based analyst with the International Crisis Group think-tank.

He said the lack of serious blowback to Trump’s announcement had encouraged right wingers in Israel’s government to question whether “maybe other things that people said were impossible are not”.

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