Palestinians rage against US shift on Jerusalem (2024)

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Richard Spencer

, Middle East Correspondent |

Anshel Pfeffer

, Jerusalem

The Times

Palestinians rage against US shift on Jerusalem (2)

Richard Spencer

, Middle East Correspondent |

Anshel Pfeffer

, Jerusalem

The Times

The United States and Israel faced a military and diplomatic struggle last night to quell a backlash across the Arab world over President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.

Rockets were fired from Gaza while scores of people were injured in protests at Israeli security force checkpoints outside Palestinian cities in the Occupied Territories. In response Israeli tanks shelled two Hamas targets in Gaza.

Hundreds of Israeli soldiers were deployed on the streets of Jerusalem this morning in response to Palestinian calls for protests after the main Muslim prayers.

On the diplomatic front, Mr Trump and Saudi Arabia, his administration’s most staunch backer in the Arab world, clashed over an unexpectedly fierce condemnation from Riyadh. The royal court called it a “drastic regression”. A statement said: “The kingdom expresses its denunciation and deep regret that the administration has taken this step, as it represents a great bias against the historic and permanent rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem.”

Mr Trump had spoken by telephone to King Salman. It is understood that the criticism was first made then. The White House later released a statement implicitly criticising Saudi Arabia for the first time over the way it had been conducting the war in Yemen.


The backlash came after Mr Trump kept an election campaign promise to his evangelical and Zionist loyalist base. He declared that America now formally recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

After a hostile reaction from the Palestinians, the US has warned against cancelling talks with the vice-president, Mike Pence. A senior Palestinian official earlier said he would not be welcome.

Ever since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Jerusalem was defined by the UN as an international city, rather than the country’s capital city, on account of the special religious significance it held for Muslims and Christians as well as Jews.

After the denunciation, Mr Trump said: “I have directed officials in my administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it.”

Aid agencies have for months been calling on Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates to lift restrictions on food and other supplies reaching the country, where eight million people are in desperate need of aid.


A White House official denied that the statement on Yemen was a response to the king’s position on Jerusalem. Saudi officials, however, said that it was being seen in that light. The row is just one of the many challenges that Mr Trump now faces in rebuilding America’s alliances with pro-western Middle Eastern states.

Palestinians rage against US shift on Jerusalem (3)

Mr Trump marked what he described as an “especially special” Hanukkah at the White House last night


Jordan, where the US embassy came under attack from protesters, and Turkey are likely to seek closer relations with Russia, regarded as a more reliable ally by many in the region.

President Erdogan of Turkey co-ordinated his response with President Putin. Officials said they “agreed that the decision would negatively affect regional peace and stability”.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, called for a new uprising against Israel. “Let December 8 be the first day of the intifada against the occupier,” he said.

Hamas had already declared today, the day of prayer for Muslims, a “day of rage”. Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and across the Palestinian territories are expected to be on high alert. Hundreds of troops were being moved into position last night. “We have given instruction to all Hamas members and to all its wings to be fully ready for any new instructions or orders that may be given to confront this strategic danger that threatens Jerusalem and threatens Palestine,” Mr Haniya said in a speech in Gaza.


Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, suggested that missiles could rain down on Israel. The front page of its main newspaper, al-Akhbar, carried the headline “Death to America” — a chant used by Iran, its main backer, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, accused America of “undisguised aggression” against Palestinians.

An Israeli army officer described the disturbances around Jerusalem and across the West Bank as the most serious civil unrest this year. Hundreds of protesters hurled stones at Israeli security forces, who responded with volleys of tear-gas grenades and rubber bullets. The Palestine Red Crescent reported that 51 people were injured, including one seriously.

At least three Palestinians were wounded at the Gaza border fences. The army said that its West Bank troops were being reinforced.

An Israeli officer said: “We are prepared for further escalation but meanwhile our main effort has been to contain the protests with as few serious casualties as possible, because that is what usually spurs further violence.”

Mr Trump’s decision was defended by Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, even though he was reported to have privately argued against it. Mr Tillerson insisted that America was still committed to a two-state solution.


Celebrations after the declaration continued in Israel. The mayor of the town of Kiryat Yam said that its main park would be renamed after the president. David Even Zur said: “Donald Trump proved to the world that Jerusalem is in his heart. We will prove to him that he is in our hearts.”


Palestinians rage against US shift on Jerusalem (2024)
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