Middle East

Palestinians angered by Trump's Jerusalem decision as Israel hails it 'courageous'


Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to shift recognition of the Israeli capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets after Donald Trump announced he was recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 

Mr Trump's decision outraged Palestinian leaders who said it disqualified the US as a peace broker, but was hailed by Israel as historic.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump's recognition as "historic" and a "courageous and just decision".

Mr Netanyahu also pledged no change to the status quo at Jerusalem's highly sensitive holy sites in the city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Later he said 'many' countries would follow the United States in recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and that such contacts were already under way.

Speaking at Israel's Foreign Ministry, Netanyahu did not  name any of these countries. He said some might relocate their  embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before the US move, which the Trump administration expects to take several years.

The city, however, remained calm on a cold and rainy evening after Mr Trump's speech with no sign of protests, while Israeli authorities projected an American flag onto the walls in one area of Jerusalem's ancient Old City in celebration.

Palestinian demonstrations were set for the West Bank on Thursday, and several thousand marched in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday night, burning US and Israeli flags while chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Palestinian leaders in the West Bank were left fuming after Trump's speech and responded with outrage, declaring that the United States could no longer serve as Middle East peace broker.

Gaza City Hundreds of angry Palestinians have taken to the streets in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to shift recognition of the Israeli capital from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Gaza City Hundreds of angry Palestinians have taken to the streets in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision.

President Mahmoud Abbas called it "deplorable".

"These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts," Mr Abbas said in a speech after Trump's announcement.

He said it amounted to "an announcement of US withdrawal from playing the role it has been playing in the past decade in sponsoring the peace process."

Those who braved the inclement weather demonstrated and chanted slogans - against US President Donald Trump and in support of Jerusalem - and burned car tyres.

Protests were seen in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, all over Gaza City and in the southern Gaza Strip towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.

Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israeli capital.
Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israeli capital.

Smaller protests also took place in the West Bank communities of Ramallah and Bethlehem. However, fierce winter weather conditions likely suppressed turnout.

Mosque loudspeakers called on Gaza residents to take to the streets to express rage and protest against Trump's declaration.

Hassan Sami Dbabesh, a 20-year-old construction worker from Gaza city was one of those who came out.

"Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine," he said. "Who is Trump to intervene into Muslims' affairs and declare that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel, which is not recognised by the Arabs and the Muslims?"

"I have never joined any protest against Israel, but when I heard that Trump declared that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, I was provoked and get mad, therefore I took to the street to support al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

"I call on the armed wings of the Palestinian factions to carry out a harsh response to Mr Trump decalaration."

Akram al-Khaldi, a 25-year-old cars mechanic from Gaza City also expressed his rage.

"In regards to Trump's decision, which violates the rights of the Palestinians and Muslims, the Palestinian armed resistance in all its forms must respond quickly until Trump retracts this unjust decision," he added.

"I call on all the people of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the 48 (Arab-Israelis) and the entire Arab and Islamic nations to come out to the streets to respond to this decision adopted by Trump."

Trump's move upturns decades of precedent and runs counter to international consensus, with no other country currently taking the same stance.

Jerusalem’s status is among the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the US traditional position has been that it must be negotiated between the two sides.

While Israel has long considered Jerusalem its capital, with the prime minister's office and parliament building located there, countries have avoided recognising it as such to prevent damaging hopes for a two-state solution.

The Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

Christmas lights switched off

Palestinians switched off Christmas lights at Jesus' traditional birthplace in Bethlehem in protest of the announcement. 

A Christmas tree adorned with lights outside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and another in Ramallah, next to the burial site of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, were plunged into darkness.

"The Christmas tree was switched off on the order of the mayor today in protest at Trump's decision," said Fady Ghattas, Bethlehem's municipal media officer.

He said it was unclear whether the illuminations would be turned on again before the main Christmas festivities.

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