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Anti-Trump protests flare near US embassy in Beirut

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Reuters
Protesters near the US embassy in Awkar, Beirut, Lebanon, yesterday. Reuters

JERUSALEM (Agencies) – Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters near the US embassy in Lebanon yesterday during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Protesters, some of them waving Palestinian flags, set fires in the street and threw projectiles towards security forces that had barricaded the main road to the US embassy in the Awkar area north of Beirut. Security personnel used force to disperse most of the protesters and detained some, witnesses said.

Addressing the protesters, the head of the Lebanese Communist Party Hanna Gharib declared the US “the enemy of Palestine” and the US embassy “a symbol of imperialist aggression” that must be closed.

Protesters burned US and Israeli flags.

“We came to say to the US embassy that it is an embassy of aggression and that Jerusalem is Arab and will stay Arab,” said Ahmad Mustafa, an official in the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was demonstrating.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday on Army Radio: “Our hope is that everything is calming down and that we are returning to a path of normal life without riots and without violence.”

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, said the situation threatens to stoke violence.

“The US move could throw a lifebuoy to terrorist and armed groups, which have begun to lose ground in the region,” he said.

The head of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has called for a mass demonstration today in the group’s southern Beirut stronghold.

“I am calling on men, women, young and old, the southern suburbs, Beirut and all those who wish to join in from across Lebanon,” Mr Nasrallah said, also inviting residents of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps.

Arab foreign ministers yesterday urged the US to abandon its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying the move would increase violence throughout the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Israel as a “terrorist state” and vowed to use “all means to fight” against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the
country’s capital.

“Palestine is an innocent victim… As for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” Mr Erdogan said in a speech in Sivas.

“We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children.”

Along Israel’s tense frontier with the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military yesterday destroyed what it described as a “significant” cross-border attack tunnel dug by the enclave’s dominant Islamist group, Hamas.

There was no immediate comment on the demolition, which came as Palestinian factions tried to meet yesterday’s deadline for an Egyptian-mediated handover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas after a decade’s schism.

Pre-dawn Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday killed two Palestinian gunmen after militants fired rockets from the area into Israel on Friday.

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta yesterday, thousands protested outside the US embassy, many waving banners saying “Palestine is in our hearts”.

Leaders in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, have joined a global chorus of condemnation of Mr Trump’s announcement, including from Western allies.

Israel says that all of Jerusalem is its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in a 1967 war, to be occupied territory and say the status of the city should be
decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to critics in a statement before talks in Paris yesterday with French President Emmanuel Macron, to be followed by
a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels.

“I hear (from Europe) voices of condemnation over President Trump’s historic announcement, but I have not heard any condemnation for the rocket firing against Israel that has come (after the announcement) and the awful incitement against us,” Mr Netanyahu said.

The Trump administration has said it is still committed to reviving Palestinian-Israeli talks that collapsed in 2014.

It said Israel’s capital would be in Jerusalem under any serious peace plan, adding that it has not taken a position with regards to the city’s borders.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has said the Palestinians will be looking for a new peace talks broker instead of the US and would seek a UN Security Council resolution over Mr Trump’s decision.

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