JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – The Islamist group Hamas urged Palestinians yesterday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.
The Israeli military was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank, deploying several new army battalions and putting other forces on standby, describing the measures as part of its “readiness for possible developments”.
At least 17 people were wounded by Israeli army gunfire, medics said, when Palestinian protests erupted in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip yesterday.
In the West Bank cities of Hebron and Al-Bireh, thousands of demonstrators rallied with chants of “Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine”, witnesses said. Some Palestinians threw stones at soldiers.
One protester was hit by live fire and another 14 by rubber bullets, medics said. A military spokeswoman said soldiers had used “riot-dispersal gear” against hundreds of rock-throwers.
In the Gaza Strip, dozens of protesters gathered near the border fence with Israel and threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Two protesters were wounded by live fire, one was in a critical condition, medics said.
Inside Gaza, thousands of Palestinians rallied, some chanting: “Death to America! Death to the fool Trump!” and burning tyres.
Mr Trump reversed decades of US policy on Wednesday by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperilling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech in Gaza.
Mr Haniyeh, elected the group’s overall leader in May, urged Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs to hold rallies against the US decision today, calling it a “day of rage”.
Naser al-Qidwa, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urged Palestinians to stage peaceful protests.
Lebanese Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc said the move constituted an unprecedented aggression against Palestine, and resistance was the only way to recover lost rights. Mr Trump’s decision was the “most dangerous” from any American administration, and threatened international security, the bloc said.
Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognised internationally.
Mr Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step expected to take years and one that his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hailed Mr Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark”, said many countries would follow the US move and contacts were underway. He did not name the countries.
“President Trump has immortalised himself in the chronicles of our capital. His name will now be held aloft, alongside other names connected to the glorious history of Jerusalem and of our people,” he said in a speech at Israel’s foreign ministry.
Other close Western allies of Washington, including France and Britain, have been critical of Mr Trump’s move. Pope Francis has called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected, while China and Russia have also expressed concern.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said yesterday: “The United States has pulled the pin on a bomb ready to blow in the region.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move has complicated the situation in the Middle East and is causing a split in the international community.
The UN Security Council is likely to meet today to discuss the decision.
Israel and the US consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and its suicide bombings helped spearhead the last intifada.
“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 Haniyeh said.
“United Jerusalem is Arab and Muslim, and it is the capital of the state of Palestine, all of Palestine,” he said. Mr Haniyeh called on Western-backed Mr Abbas to withdraw from peacemaking with Israel and on Arabs to boycott the Trump administration.
Mr Abbas said on Wednesday the US had abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts. Palestinian secular and Islamist factions called for a general strike and rallies yesterday.
Fearing recrimination could disrupt reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah and other Fatah delegates arrived in Gaza yesterday to meet Hamas.
The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.