Jerusalem: New protests flared in the Middle East and elsewhere on Sunday over US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that has drawn global condemnation and sparked days of unrest in the Palestinian territories.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly warned of the consequences of Trump’s move, also lashed out Sunday by calling Israel a “terrorist state” and “state that kills children”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile visited Europe for his first trip abroad since Trump’s declaration, with talks planned with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has been followed by days of protests and clashes in the Palestinian territories.
Four Palestinians were killed either in clashes or from Israeli air strikes in retaliation for rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. Further protests were held in Lebanon, Indonesia, Egypt and the Palestinian territories on Sunday.
Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannons at several hundred demonstrators near the US embassy. Protestors waving Palestinian and Lebanese flags, and sporting black-and-white checked keffiyeh scarves, chanted slogans against Trump, an AFP correspondent at the protest said. Several people were injured by rocks, tear gas, and rubber bullets, the correspondent said.
In Jakarta, some 5,000 Indonesians protested in solidarity with the Palestinians, gathering outside the US embassy in the world’s most-populous Muslim country. In Cairo, students and professors demonstrated at the prestigious Al-Azhar University, a university spokesman said, with pictures on social media showing several hundred protesters. Dozens of students protested at two other Cairo universities.
A protest and clashes also broke out in Al-Arroub refugee camp in the south of the occupied West Bank, leaving one Palestinian wounded from rubber bullets, the Palestinian health ministry said. Separately, the Israeli military said it destroyed a Hamas tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory — an incident unrelated to the recent unrest, but which threatened to further increase tensions. Such tunnels have been used in the past to carry out attacks.
Trump’s declaration has been followed by near universal condemnation and diplomatic fallout, with warnings it risks setting off a new round of violence in the turbulent Middle East. US Vice President Mike Pence is due to visit the region later this month, but Palestinian officials say president Mahmud Abbas will refuse to meet him.
Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II cancelled a meeting with Pence as well, saying Trump’s announcement had failed to take into account the “feelings of millions” of Arabs. Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday called on the United States to rescind the move.
Netanyahu’s trip to Europe was long planned, but the recent crisis is almost sure to be discussed.
Both Macron and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini have criticised Trump’s decision, and there have been ongoing tensions between Netanyahu and European Union officials over Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.