Saturday, December 09, 2017

Muslims Riot Over Jerusalem Becoming Israel's Capital

Days of rage: Trump's Jerusalem decision sparks furious reaction in Muslim world
Published on Dec 7, 2017

Israeli police clash with Muslims in Jerusalem's Old City
The Telegraph
Published on Jul 21, 2017
Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza as Muslim world riots over Jerusalem row
Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
December 9, 2017
Israeli bombs killed two Hamas militants in Gaza last night in response to a spate of rocket attacks after a day of violent protests in the occupied territories.
Two Palestinians were shot dead at demonstrations, the first confirmed killings since President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A rocket fired from Gaza was intercepted by Israel’s mobile Iron Dome system, a day after three other missiles failed to hit their targets.
After the airstrike, another rocket hit the town of Sderot in southern Israel, but failed to explode.
The health ministry in Gaza said on Friday night that 14 people had been injured in an aerial assault in Nusseirat, central Gaza, which Israel said targeted an ammunition warehouse and a military training facility. About 200 Palestinians were injured in two days of clashes with security forces.
Groups of youths gathered at Israeli checkpoints after Friday prayers and again on Saturday, throwing stones and burning tyres and the American and Israeli flags. Some threw petrol bombs, with the security forces responding with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, had called for a “day of rage” and said Mr Trump’s decision proved the fruitlessness of peace talks with Israel.
His hand has been strengthened against that of his rival, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, by Mr Trump’s announcement that he was moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Mr Abbas has spent years engaging with the US and co-operating with the Israeli security forces in the hope of winning some sort of deal over a Palestinian state. Since the Jerusalem declaration he has refused to attend prescheduled talks with Mike Pence, the US vice-president.
In Jerusalem itself tens of thousands of men and women made their way to the al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, from 11am. In a change of policy the Israeli authorities did not limit the age of those allowed to enter the compound.
Five hundred metres away, outside the Damascus Gate, scuffles broke out between protesters and police. When Palestinians raised a banner with a cartoon of President Trump, police fought their way into the crowd and confiscated it. When another group tried to block the road mounted police rode in, forcing them into an alleyway.
Police said two arrests were made near Damascus Gate, with a total of 50 Palestinians arrested in and around Jerusalem in the past two days.
Local people reflected the mixed feelings of many Palestinians: angry at the US decision but fully aware that years of protests and bouts of violence had made as little difference to their plight as attempts to engage in the peace process.
“People here are angry but also don’t really know where to direct their anger,” one of the stall owners in the nearby Muslim quarter said. “Trump is far away and who knows what he will do. This isn’t a good time for us to start rioting. Soon it is Christmas and we need the tourists who will come here for our local economy.”
Ahmed Tibi, an Arab-Israeli member of the Knesset who attended the demonstration, said: “No one here wants violence. This is just the start of a long period of protest here in Jerusalem and across the Arab world, which we expect to show solidarity.” Matters were much less calm in the West Bank, with clashes between police and protesters in the cities of Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Waves of stone-throwing youths targeted Israeli troops at the main Qalandiya crossing and the Ayosh checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. They were pushed back by water cannon and volleys of tear-gas canisters. White clouds of tear gas mixed with acrid black smoke from tyres set alight by the protesters.
Israeli intelligence said that about 3,000 Palestinians took part in the protests across the West Bank.
In Gaza, Palestinians approaching the border fence with Israel were warned away by gunfire.
Farther afield there were rallies from Malaysia to the Afghan capital, Kabul. In Beirut, as many as 5,000 people staged a protest march near the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila, scene of an infamous massacre by Israeli-backed militias in 1982. In Algiers, marchers chanted “Death to Trump” and “Mohammed’s soldiers are back”.
The diplomatic fallout may be more serious than Mr Trump might have expected. Palestinian officials are threatening to snub the American vice-president, Mike Pence, saying that America can no longer be an impartial arbiter between the two sides.
Mr Trump said Mr Pence would be visiting the Middle East later in the month to reassure the Arab world that America was still committed to putting forward and negotiating the peace proposal that is being drawn up by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
However, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in Mr Abbas’s ruling Fatah party, said that Mr Pence was “unwelcome in Palestine”.
He added: “In the name of Fatah I say that we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in the Palestinian territories. He asked to meet the president on the 19th of this month in Bethlehem, but such a meeting will not take place.”
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo and the man considered by many as the most important religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world, also said that he would refuse to meet Mr Pence.
The Trump administration insisted that the decision did not affect the final status of Jerusalem under any peace deal and officials emphasised that they were still working to produce a peace proposal. “With respect to the rest of Jerusalem, the president did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem,” Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, said. “He was very clear that the final status, including the borders, would be left to the two parties to negotiate and decide.”
At a meeting of the UN security council Britain and other members called on the United States to put forward a new peace proposal as soon as possible, saying there was no “plan B” alternative to a two-state solution.

Two Palestinians shot dead and one critical in riots after Trump speech
Palestinian worshippers and Israeli troops clash as Muslims protest against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Peter Beaumont in Bethlehem and Patrick Wintour in London
Friday 8 December 2017
Two Palestinians have been shot dead in Gaza by the Israeli army, the first people killed in clashes that began after Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops across the West Bank as worshippers throughout the Muslim world took to the streets after the weekly Friday midday prayers to vent their fury at Trump’s decision. A third man was in a critical condition after being shot in the head during the clashes.
Despite calls for a day of rage, Palestinian protesters turned out in smaller numbers than they had on Thursday in the immediate aftermath of  Trump’s controversial speech, allowing reinforced Israeli troops, who had been anticipating clashes, to manage the confrontations with ease.
Late on Friday, Israeli planes bombed militant targets in Gaza in response to a rocket fired at nearby Israeli towns. The Palestinian health ministry said at least 25 people were wounded in the strikes, including six children.
The main focus remained on the diplomatic front, as UN security council members met to reaffirm their support for a two-state solution and demonstrate the diplomatic isolation of the US.
Addressing members via videolink from Jerusalem, Nikolay Mladenov, the UN’s Middle East special envoy, said Trump’s remarks had undermined a decades-old consensus.
Francois Delattre, the UN’s French representative, said Trump’s unilateral decision was in breach of international law and “carried the risk of taking a political conflict and seeing it morph into an insurmountable religious conflict”.
Underlining the extent to which France has lost patience with the US handling of the Palestine issue, the country’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said America had excluded itself as a Middle East mediator.
US officials were still scrambling to limit the fallout of a move that has drawn near-universal condemnation and shocked Washington’s allies, both in its clumsiness and for shattering the long-established international consensus on the question of Jerusalem.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, tried to limit the diplomatic damage, saying any move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem  – as the US president had called for – could take at least two years. He also insisted Trump’s statement did not prejudge the final status of Jerusalem in any peace talks.
Le Drian said: “I hear some, including Tillerson, say things will happen in time and the hour is for negotiations. Until now the US could have had a mediation role in this conflict, but it has excluded itself a little.”
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, disputed the French attack, telling the security council: “The United States has credibility with both sides. Israel will never be, and should never be, bullied into an agreement by the United Nations, or by any collection of countries that have proven their disregard for Israel’s security.”
The controversy appears to have opened up opportunities for Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, who is due to discuss the issue during talks with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – who has been one of the most vociferous in condemning Trump’s actions – on Monday, and with Egypt’s leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, later in the week.
Whether unrest would spread and spiral, both in the 
Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the region, was being closely watched.
In Bethlehem, where some of Friday’s biggest clashes occurred, several hundred Palestinians sporadically moved forward to throw stones at Israeli soldiers from behind burning tyres billowing black smoke, before being driven back by volleys of teargas, sponge-topped riot rounds and plastic-coated pellets.
Confrontations also took place in Jerusalem and other locations.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, prepared for 24 hours of urgent consultations with other Palestinian factions, including Hamas, which were expected to conclude with a declaration that he was cutting ties with US peace negotiators as well as cancelling a meeting with the US vice-president, Mike Pence, who is due to visit this month.
Palestinian officials confirmed that Abbas had ordered his security forces to ensure that trouble did not escalate to more dangerous levels, amid calls from some quarters for a third intifada.
Trump’s seismic policy shift on Jerusalem has angered Arabs and Muslims, who view it as an expression of blatant pro-Israel bias in one of the region’s most explosive religious and political disputes.
Protesters marched throughout the Arab world from Lebanon to Egypt and Jordan to protest against the decision, with no sign of an end to the crisis in sight, following calls from different militant groups in the region – from Iraq to Afghanistan – to attack American interests. Marches were also staged in Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan.
Among the groups that have called for attacks on Americans are al-Qaida and Islamic State. Israeli security agencies are also concerned that the anger could lead to a return to lone wolf attacks against Israelis by individuals largely unconnected with the main Palestinian factions.
In Jerusalem the preacher at al-Aqsa mosque told worshippers that the city will “remain Muslim and Arab”.
“All we want from the Arab and Muslim leaders is action and not statements of denunciation,” Sheikh Yousef Abu Sneineh told around 27,000 worshippers.
'It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,' says Trump 
“It’s empty talk,” said a 20-year-old man who gave his name only as Omar, as he walked toward al-Aqsa for prayers. “No matter what happens, we know Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine, not of Israel. Israel is an occupier.”
About 2,000 people later gathered in the plaza around the mosque, chanting: “With our soul and blood, we will defend al-Aqsa and Jerusalem.”
In neighbouring Jordan, hundreds of protesters in Amman, the capital, chanted: “Jerusalem is Arab,” and “America is the head of the snake.”
In the wake of the outrage across the Arab world, Britain and France, traditionally close allies of the US, called the emergency UN meeting in part to inject some much needed momentum into a peace process that has largely been left to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to develop.
On Thursday Matthew Rycroft, the British UN ambassador, described Trump’s intervention as unhelpful and urged the US administration to publish its plan for peace as quickly as possible.
One of the few countries that had appeared to suggest it might follow Trump’s move, the Czech Republic, appeared to scotch the idea on Friday.
The new Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, dismissed a suggestion by the president, Miloš Zeman, that it should follow the US example and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Speaking to Czech public radio on Friday, he said: “This idea of President Trump is not good. You can see the reactions.”
'Decades of chaos'. Arab leaders condemn US decision on Jerusalem
Donald Trump’s unilateral move to back Israel’s claim to holy city has reunited competing factions across the Middle East to a common cause
Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent
Thursday 7, December 2017
A Jordanian protester holds a poster depicting the US president Donald Trump during a demonstration outside the US embassy in Amman. Photograph: Amel Pain/EPA
The Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has drawn widespread condemnation across the Arab world, with political leaders, commentators and locals labelling the move as provocative and a threat to global security.
The decision has been cast as the final nail in the coffin of a two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict – an approach broadly recognised by Arab states – and the end of meaningful US diplomacy between both sides after almost 70 years.
It has also allowed competing factions across the Middle East to refocus on a common cause that had drifted from the spotlight over the past five years, eclipsed by regional power plays, war and insurrection.
Leaders in Turkey and Lebanon warned of dangerous instability in the wake of the announcement, which overtly sides Washington with Israel at a time when the US had been attempting to table a new peace initiative between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The future of Jerusalem had been central to all previous peace pushes and commentators and residents were united in their belief that negotiations could not begin if the Palestinians’ claim to the holy city was no longer on the table.
Jordan’s King Abdullah said: “There is no alternative to a two-state solution, and Jerusalem is key to any peace agreement. It is imperative to work fast to reach a final status solution and a peace agreement. Ignoring Palestinian Muslim and Christian rights in the holy city could fuel terrorism.”
Lebanese and Palestinian students chant slogans and hold Palestinian flags as they take part in a protest in the southern port city of Sidon. Photograph: Mohammed Zaatari/AP
In Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, called for demonstrations on Monday to protest against the decision. “Trump had support from the Arabs or else he wouldn’t have been able to do this,” said Nasrallah. “The Arab government will scream for a few days then go on with the occupation. America has shown that it doesn’t take into account the opinion of its allies.”
But US ally Saudi Arabia was also quick to denounce the move. Riyadh had sponsored a regional peace initiative that promised full Arab League recognition of Israel in return for a retreat to borders that were in place before the 1967 war.
That plan had been the centrepiece of dormant peace efforts. However, it had barely been raised in recent years as energies had been diverted to other regional crises, and support in Riyadh and the Gulf states for the Palestinian leadership had ebbed.
Ali Nassereddine, a chef from the Shia suburb of Dahiyeh in south Beirut, claimed Trump’s announcement had likely been coordinated with the Saudis and other allies, including the UAE. Echoing sentiments also widely expressed in Syria and Turkey, he said: “The decision was not only based on Israelis and Americans, the Arabs had a hand in it. 
The question should be directed to the Palestinians and [Palestinian leader] Mahmoud Abbas and all the resistance: do you now realise that negotiations will not get you anywhere?”
In Iraq, powerful militia and political leaders vehemently condemned the move. Muqtadr al-Sadr, a Shia leader and chief protagonist in the country’s civil war, said: “I am ready to be the first soldier, not even leader, if all factions involved decided to confront Israel. No peace with the evil, arrogant and colonial governments. I ask of the Palestinians not to accept this decision in any way, and to revitalise the revolution.”
Other militia groups in Iraq also issued an effective call to arms, as did al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. There was no immediate response from other regional terror groups, such as Islamic State.
Khalid al-Zubidi, a commentator for the Jordanian newspaper Ad Dustour, said: “Despite the turmoil the Arab world has faced the last years with governments turning on each other or on themselves, there are still some situations that we cannot negotiate. 
Jerusalem is one of them for Arabs.”
Writing in the Saudi-aligned Asharq al-Awsat, Samir Atallah said: “Previous American presidents never touched on the subject of Jerusalem because they knew it goes beyond the Israeli Palestinian conflict. It involves Muslims worldwide. Unfortunately Trump doesn’t have a historical or political background. If his intention is to solve the Palestinian conflict he chose the wrong door. Jerusalem is not a political symbol but will forever be a religious one.”
Khalid Zuberi, a banker in Cairo, said: “This shows [Trump] has bad faith towards us. He is a fool and he did this to be provocative. We all know he wants to please those who elected him, like the US Christian Zionists. But he must understand from his friends in the region that this will cause chaos. It will be difficult to be an American businessman or tourist here now. More than that though, the region is condemned to decades of chaos because of this.”
Additional reporting by Nadia al-Faour