At least two people were killed in clashes with Israeli troops on Friday when thousands of Palestinians demonstrated against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Palestinian president said Washington could no longer be a peace broker.
Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man near the Gaza border, the first confirmed death in two days of unrest. Scores of people were wounded on the “Day of Rage”. A second person later died of their wounds, a Gaza hospital official said.
Clashes erupted across the West Bank and along Israel's border with the Gaza after Friday prayers as Palestinians vented their anger for a second day at the US president's move and plans to move the US embassy there. So far, the clashes in the West Bank did not appear to be taking on the character or intensity of an all-out uprising.
The UN Security Council members held an urgent meeting in which Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital was widely condemned.
“We disagree with the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is not in line with Security Council resolutions and is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region”.
The council stated that the status of Jerusalem “must be determined through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians leading to a final status agreement”.
The UN members confirmed that until that happens Jerusalem should ultimately be the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states and no sovereignty over Jerusalem will be recognised before then.
“We all share a willingness to put an end to the conflict. We note the commitment made by President Trump to support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides and his clear acknowledgement that the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem must be subject to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We stand ready to contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process, on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, leading to a two-State solution. We encourage the US Administration to now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement.”.
The health ministry in the Gaza Strip said one Palestinian was killed by Israeli army fire. Several other Gaza Palestinians were wounded by live fire, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. An Israeli army spokeswoman said troops directed "selective fire at two main instigators" during a riot near the border fence in which Palestinians burned tyres and threw rocks,
"Hits were confirmed," she said.
The first victim was identified as Mahmoud Masri by the Palestinian news agency Maan.
A statement from Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra announced the death of 'Maher Atallah, 54, in the northern Gaza Strip who was injured in clashes this evening'.
Ninety-five Palestinians were injured in the West Bank - one by live ammunition, 21 from rubber-coated metal bullets and 72 of them from tear-gas inhalation, and one from a beating, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended noon prayers at Al Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site. They dispersed without major incident. Worshippers interviewed by The National differed over whether they thought a new intifada, or uprising, would break out over Mr Trump's move. But they were united in feeling deeply wronged, hurt and angry. Many voiced defiance.
"Jerusalem is for Arabs, for Muslims. Trump has the power now but this will change," said Naif Manasra, an accountant. "The Arabs and Muslims have to unite to change things."
Asked if there would be an uprising, he said: "Maybe yes, maybe no."
Another man is his 60s said: "If Trump doesn't reverse his position, there will be worse than an intifada. There will be religious war. There can be no peace in the Middle East without Jerusalem. We in Jerusalem will defend Al Aqsa."
Manar Najib, 33, who teaches second-graders, said she had her pupils colour Palestinian flags in response to Mr Trump's speech. "Jerusalem is ours," was her message to the class.
"Trump is nothing, he can say many words but they just fly in the air. He can't take Jerusalem because it is in our blood," Ms Najib said. "It's not that we live in Jerusalem. It's that Jerusalem is inside us."
A 60-year-old woman, who identified herself as Umm Hosam, said Jerusalem was "the land of our parents and grandparents. It is in our heart and soul".
Salah Rajabi, 65, from Bethany near Jerusalem, hoped there would not be an intifada. "Many people will die if there is an intifada," he said.
Much will depend on the actions of the Israeli security forces. Hamas calls for the launch of an all-out uprising from Friday did not elicit the initial response its leader Ismail Haniyeh had hoped for. But further fatalities in significant numbers would ratchet up the Palestinian anger and intensify and widen the confrontations.
The Palestinians have been pushed into a corner of heightened despair with Trump's declaration, which upended seven decades of American policy and elicited a wave of condemnation across the Arab world.
The change of position has left Palestinian with nothing to look forward to but endless occupation. Their president, Mahmoud Abbas, who for more than a decade pinned his hopes on an American-brokered agreement with Israel on Palestinian statehood, is left exposed with no agenda.
Jibril Rajoub, a member of the central committee of Mr Abbas's Fatah movement, said on Friday that Palestinian leaders would refuse to meet US vice president Mike Pence when he visits Bethlehem later this month. Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasme issued a statement calling Mr Trump's move a "declaration of war on the Palestinian people, its Muslim and Christian holy sites and the Arab and Islamic nations".
"Trump has no right to give [Jerusalem] to the undeserving," Mr Qawasme said, adding that Palestinian roots in Jerusalem went back to the time of the Canaanites.
The Israeli army said several thousand Palestinians had participated in "riots" across the West Bank on Friday, using stones and petrol bombs against troops who used "riot dispersal means", a phrase that connotes rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas although in fact live fire was used in some locales.
Among the main flashpoints were Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, Al Aroub refugee camp near Hebron and the Nablus area. In Gaza, clashes erupted near Khan Younis, where the protester was killed. In Jerusalem, the worshippers dispersed without serious violence although three Palestinians were reportedly arrested as scuffles broke out in the Damascus Gate area.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, with its sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, along with the rest of the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East war and then annexed it in contravention of international law. Jerusalem features in many Jewish prayers and houses the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. The same area is revered by Muslims as Al Haram Al Sharif, the noble sanctuary. The Israeli government, which rejects a two-state compromise solution to the conflict, believes its claims based on the Bible supersede Palestinian rights in the holy city. Many American evangelical Christians, an important political base for Trump, share that perception.