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Palestinian protest on Gaza border turns deadly

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and at least 12 killed by Israeli security forces facing down land protests on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to continue until the new US Embassy is opened. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, gathered at five points along the fenced border at the start of six weeks of protests on Friday. The five sites have been set up from near the Erez border crossing in the north to Rafah, where it meets the Egyptian border in the south. At least 12 Palestinians were killed on Friday: two of them by Israeli tank fire, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The same source said 400 people were wounded by live Israeli gunfire and others were struck by rubber bullets or treated for the effects of tear gas. Organizers had called on demonstrators to stay away from the border area but as the day wore on, hundreds of young people moved closer to the frontier, from where the Israeli military kept watch. Disproportionate force? The Israeli military said Palestinians rolled burning tires and threw stones at the Israeli forces, who responded with live bullets, tear gas and fired at what they called the "main instigators." Witnesses said the Israeli military used a drone to drop tear gas over at least one location. Three sites in particular were targeted with tank fire and an airstrike after the Israelis claimed there had been a shooting attack against their soldiers. No Israeli soldier was injured. Palestinians, and Turkish authorities, accused Israel of using disproportionate force. The protest, which has the backing of Hamas, is expected to last more than six weeks, as US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital becomes final when the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem. On Friday evening, organizers encouraged demonstrators to withdraw from the border area until Saturday. 'A message to Trump' "The Great March of Return is a message to Trump," Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of the Hamas political bureau, told the crowds. "There is no concession to Jerusalem, no alternative to Palestine, and no solution but to return. This is the Palestinian people taking the initiative and making the event for the sake of Palestine ... for the sake of Jerusalem and the right of return," Haniyeh said. The protests began as Palestinians marked Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976. Dubbed "The Great March of Return," organizers said the rallies would continue until May 15 when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or "catastrophe," where more than 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes or were expelled during the war that led to the creation of Israel in 1948. The date is one day after the new US Embassy in Jerusalem is expected to be formally opened. According to the United Nations, about 1.3 million of Gaza's 2 million residents are refugees or the descendants of refugees, and the protest is calling for them to be allowed to return to land that has been taken by Israel. Read more: Intifadas: What you need to know jm,law/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and at least 12 killed by Israeli security forces facing down land protests on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to continue until the new US Embassy is opened. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, gathered at five points along the fenced border at the start of six weeks of protests ... Read More »

Israel strikes Hamas military targets in Gaza Strip

At least two members of the Islamist group Hamas have been killed in airstrikes targeting military facilities. Israeli Defense Forces said it responded to rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip during the "day of rage." Israeli airstrikes killed at least two people on Saturday after targeting military facilities in the Gaza Strip allegedly linked to the armed wing of the Islamist group Hamas. Militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip launched missiles into Israel on Friday amid mass protests and clashes against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this week. Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know An Islamist militant group calling itself the Salahedin Brigades claimed responsibility for one of the attacks. However, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it holds Hamas responsible for "all hostile acts against Israel emanating from the Gaza Strip." "In response to the projectiles fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip … Israel air force aircraft targeted a Hamas training compound and an ammunition warehouse in the Gaza Strip," the IDF said in a statement. The targets included "two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound," according to the IDF. Outrage at Trump's decision On Friday, thousands in the occupied Palestinian territories and across the globe took to the streets to protest the White House's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, marking a major shift in the US foreign policy on the issue. At least two Palestinians were killed during clashes in the Gaza Strip. Trump's decision has sent shock waves throughout the region and across the globe, with US allies condemning the move, saying it undermines the peace process. Read more: Intifadas: What you need to know However, the US remained defiant, with US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley saying: "The United States will not be lectured to by countries that lack any credibility when it comes to treating both Israelis and Palestinians fairly." The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a majority of the international community rejects that claim, saying the city's status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians.

At least two members of the Islamist group Hamas have been killed in airstrikes targeting military facilities. Israeli Defense Forces said it responded to rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip during the “day of rage.” Israeli airstrikes killed at least two people on Saturday after targeting military facilities in the Gaza Strip allegedly linked to the armed wing of ... Read More »

Egypt’s Coptic Pope shuns US VP Mike Pence over Jerusalem

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it "excused itself from hosting Mike Pence" when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump's decision "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people." Egypt's Coptic Church said it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb also refused to meet Pence. Egyptian Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority in the region, make up about 10 percent of the country's 93 million people. Solidarity from non-Muslim Arabs The Coptic Pope's refusal to host Pence is largely symbolic but significant because it demonstrates the Arab solidarity for Palestinians irrespective of religious affiliations. Trump's decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem has not only been criticized by Muslim countries; Germany, China and Russia are among scores of nations that have slammed the US president over the policy U-turn. The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know Intifadas: What you need to know While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a majority of the international community rejects that claim, saying the city's status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday it would take several years before the US opens an embassy in Jerusalem. Anger against US Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will also not participate in a planned meeting with Pence later this month. "There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine," Majdi al-Khaldi, a Palestinian diplomatic adviser, told AFP news agency. "The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem decision," he added. Washington had warned Thursday that cancelling the meeting would be "counter-productive" for peace in the region, but Abbas has been under tremendous pressure to assert over the Jerusalem decision. Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas' Fatah party, said Pence was "not welcome in Palestine." Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged protesters Saturday to remain calm over Trump's recognition of Jerusalem. "The fate of Jerusalem cannot be left to an occupying state that usurped Palestinian lands since 1967 with no regard to law and morality," Erdogan said, adding that reactions to the situation should be within democratic and legal scope. Protests and airstrikes Palestinian protests against Trump's announcement continued on Saturday also. On Friday, at least two people were killed and 760 were injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli airstrikes killed at least two people on Saturday after targeting military facilities in the Gaza Strip allegedly linked to the armed wing of the Islamist group Hamas. Militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip launched missiles into Israel on Friday amid mass protests and clashes against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this week. There have been Palestine solidarity rallies in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. Read more: Palestinian youth fight to defend right to Jerusalem as capital The militant al Qaeda network urged its supporters the world over to target key interests of the US and its allies, in response to Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it “excused itself from hosting Mike Pence” when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump’s decision “at ... Read More »

Two reasons behind Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

With President Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital being widely criticized in the US and abroad, many question his rationale. Scholars point to a political reason — and a psychological factor. The chorus of critics lambasting US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv has only grown — both in the United States and around the world — since he announced it on Wednesday. As the UN Security Council held a special meeting on Friday in New York over the president's unilateral move, protesters across the Muslim world took to the streets to denounce the decision. Five European countries — Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy – in a joint statement after the UN session called Washington's decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region." Read more: Israel airstrikes strike Gaza Strip during Palestinian 'day of rage' On Thursday, an impromptu survey of recent American ambassadors to Israel nominated by both Republican and Democratic presidents conducted by The New York Times, found that nine out of 11 of them disagreed with Trump's decision. Also in the US, more than 100 Jewish studies scholars across the country released a petition on Thursday opposing the move. With Washington facing widespread criticism for its decision to break with decades-long precedent in its stance towards Jerusalem, the question arises why the Trump administration would have decided to do so despite publicly voiced concerns from close US allies in the region and Europe. Appeal to evangelicals For Martin Indyk, former US special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and former US ambassador to Israel, the rationale behind Trump's decision is entirely domestic – and easily explained. "It was an appeal to his evangelical Christian base, pure and simple," Indyk, now the executive vice president of the Brookings Institution, wrote in an email. Steven Spiegel, director of the Center for Middle East Development at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), agreed that pleasing Trump's base of Christian and Jewish conservative supporters was a key element in the decision. During the presidential campaign, Trump had repeatedly promised to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Read more: Hamas calls for third intifada after US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital With Wednesday's declaration, Trump, who has struggled to win legislative victories despite his Republican Party holding control of both houses of Congress, fulfilled a campaign pledge and did so with relative ease. Low-hanging fruit Unlike many of Trump's other efforts to make good on his campaign promises, such as repealing former-President Barack Obama's health care reform or implementing a travel ban, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital is low-hanging fruit as it really can be done by presidential action alone. But there's another — non-political — factor that helps explain Trump's decision to undo decades of US foreign policy and that is Trump's inclination to shake things up, said UCLA's Spiegel. It's a penchant that in itself is not necessarily a bad idea, he added. "Shaking things up, coming up with a better idea – sure, but this wasn't weighted to do that, especially if you are not going to mention that East Jerusalem will be the Palestinian capital," he said. Read more: Palestinian youth fight to defend right to Jerusalem as capital Messing things up Both scholars disagreed with Trump's decision as well as how it was carried out, especially because it stands to cripple the administration's approach in the Middle East, one of the few regions where, according to Spiegel, Trump's policy had been received fairly positively until now. "Things seemed to be really better," he said. "They didn't like Obama generally in the Middle East and so, therefore, he seems to have taken advantage of that. He doesn't get the absolutely low grade he gets elsewhere. This messes it up." The Jerusalem decision clashes with Trump's broader Middle East strategy, said Indyk. "His aides tried to make it fit with his peacemaking strategy, but it was too unbalanced to assuage Palestinian anger." Spiegel said he thinks Trump's decision deals a serious blow to the Middle East peace process and will hurt Washington's perception in the region and beyond. "It's largely symbolic, especially because the embassy will not be moved for many years," former US special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Indyk said. "But in the Middle East conflict is fueled by symbols."

With President Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital being widely criticized in the US and abroad, many question his rationale. Scholars point to a political reason — and a psychological factor. The chorus of critics lambasting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his plan to move the US Embassy from ... Read More »

Protesters in West Bank, Gaza, Mideast and Asia rail against Trump’s Jerusalem gambit

At least two are dead and a dozen injured during clashes with police Friday, as the protests extended into a second day. Thousands more protested across the Muslim world in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. At least two Palestinian protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli security forces in Gaza on Friday as protests over Jerusalem intensified. Palestinian protesters also clashed with Israeli police across the West Bank after Friday prayers, as Muslims across the Middle East and elsewhere joined in condemning US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In what has been dubbed a "day of rage," protesters in cities and towns threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Smoke was seen rising over Bethlehem. Trump's announcement this week upended decades of US diplomatic efforts to maintain a semblance of objectivity while leaving the status of a contested Jerusalem to peace negotiations between the two sides. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital for their future state, but Israel has refused that claim. Much of the international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. Jerusalem is home to key holy sites for Jews, Muslims and Christians, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. More than a dozen Palestinians were hurt during Friday's clashes with police, according to Erab Fukaha, a spokeswoman for the Red Crescent paramedics. She said 12 Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and one by live fire. More than 30 Palestinians were injured on Thursday in clashes with police. A call for holy war Palestinian political groups had called for a day of rage in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem on Friday, to protest Trump's decision. Separately, in Gaza, the leader of Hamas, a militant Islamic group, is pushing for a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel. The first intifada erupted in December 1987 and ended in 1993. The second intifada began in September 2000 and ended about five years later. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in the two uprisings. "Whoever moves his embassy to occupied Jerusalem will become an enemy of the Palestinians and a target of Palestinian factions," said Hamas leader Fathy Hammad as protesters in Gaza burnt posters of Trump. "We declare an intifada until the liberation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine." Meanwhile, militant al-Qaida leaders urged their followers around the world to target the strategic interests of the US and Israel. Muslims also took to the streets in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Somalia. More than 3,000 people protested outside a mosque in Istanbul, carrying Palestinian flags and chanting anti-US and anti-Israeli slogans. There were also protests in the capital, Ankara, and at least three other cities in Turkey. Across the street from the embassy in Ankara, protesters chanted: "USA, take your bloodied hands off Jerusalem."

At least two are dead and a dozen injured during clashes with police Friday, as the protests extended into a second day. Thousands more protested across the Muslim world in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. At least two Palestinian protesters were killed during clashes with Israeli security forces in Gaza on Friday as protests over Jerusalem intensified. Palestinian protesters ... Read More »

US Embassy move to Jerusalem could spark ‘third intifada’ Germany’s former ambassador says

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as a capital. Former German Ambassador to Israel Rudolf Dreßler told DW that the United States would seriously harm the Middle East peace process with an embassy move. DW: Mr. Dreßler, The United States Congress voted to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there when it passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995. Why was that decision never acted upon? Rudolf Dreßler: The proposal has been regularly suspended by every American president regardless of political party every six months since 1995 because the Arab world and the European Union have clearly stated that it would be unacceptable for the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We have always maintained that such a move would be an escalation akin to riding the edge of a razor. Yet that is exactly what Trump has done in all of his ignorance and disdain for international opinion — something we have seen again and again. He has said that he will do whatever he wants, just like he did he was running his companies. For 70 years the international consensus has been that Jerusalem was tabu until a solution to the Middle East conflict could be found. What is Donald Trump's withdrawal from this international consensus supposed to bring about? I suppose that it is just part of his nature. It isn't the first decision he has made on the issue. But the worst effect of the administration's decision to move the embassy is that it has effectively forfeited the United States' role as a stabilizing force and also as an international partner in future peace negotiations. That is really the worst aspect of the decision. Now Russia, China and the EU will take over this role. You spent five years in Israel as the German ambassador. Did you ever think you would see the day when the United States would act on its 1995 resolution? No, I didn't think it possible because as anyone who has ever analyzed the situation knows, the implementation of such an idea could never provide a sustainable groundwork for a new round of peace talks. And also because the conflicts surrounding the situation would grow so large that the threat of a third intifada could not be ruled out. If we think about the fact that the second intifada was sparked by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, then it becomes clear that there are certainly similarities. The ideology and transmission of signals, the fact that one is choosing sides, also in terms of religious conflict, is all extremely dangerous. Read more: The Temple Mount: A clash of cultures Germany is a close ally of the United States. The German Embassy, like every other country's diplomatic representation, is based in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem. What is the German position on this issue? It is that we would only look favorably upon moving the embassy when we have a peace treaty in place that resolves the issue of Jerusalem as capital for both sides — East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem — and when that treaty is accepted by both Israelis and Palestinians. That is not only not the case right now, we are actually further away than ever. Was there ever a different German position on the issue of Jerusalem? Not that I am aware of. Washington's announcement has been greeted with great outrage in the Arab and Muslim world and beyond. What will the United States' symbolic and one-sided partisanship towards Israel mean for the peace process throughout the region? It will mean that the US will sacrifice its role as a reliable guarantor of Western-style multilateralism. That is the political message, and that is also how German Foreign Minister [Sigmar Gabriel] summed it up. And that, in turn, means that we will no longer be looking for new ways to restart peace negotiations but rather will be forced to seek ways to hinder new outbreaks of violence. Read more: Palestinians protest against US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital What will now be required of German foreign policy? No one even knows at this point, but if renewed violence should become a reality — for instance, with a third intifada — then Germany and all of its EU partners will have a lot to deal with. We will have to determine how to reformulate the EU's role against the backdrop of Trump and Netanyahu's policies in Israel. The possibility for renewed peace talks is slim at this point. They simply are not likely to take place. We have to figure out how we can get Israel back to the negotiating table. Rudolf Dreßler (77) is Social Democratic Party (SPD) politican. He represented the Federal Republic of Germany as its ambassador to Israel in Tel Aviv from 2000 until 2005.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as a capital. Former German Ambassador to Israel Rudolf Dreßler told DW that the United States would seriously harm the Middle East peace process with an embassy move. DW: Mr. Dreßler, The United States Congress voted to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there when it ... Read More »

Germany warns US of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

Germany's foreign minister has urged the White House of taking the decision, saying it "does not calm a conflict." Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Donald Trump called to tell him he plans to recognize Jerusalem. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday warned the US about the dangers of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more," Gabriel said. "It's in everyone's interest that this does not happen." Read more: Arab world warns US not to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital Gabriel's remarks come as the White House has suggested it may take the decision to relocate its embassy and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said US President Donald Trump called to inform him of plans to move the US embassy, reported the Palestinian Authority's official news agency. Abbas "warned of the dangerous repercussions of such step on the (long-stalled) peace process, security and stability in the region and the world," said Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh. The Jerusalem question The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. Another major issue is illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Read more: 'Palestinians want reconciliation' between Fatah and Hamas The international community has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital or its unilateral annexation of territory around the city's eastern sector, which it captured during the 1967 Six-Day War. However, Israeli officials have urged the Trump administration to take the decision. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on the White House to take the "historic opportunity" to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying he hopes to "see an American embassy here in Jerusalem next week or next month."

Germany’s foreign minister has urged the White House of taking the decision, saying it “does not calm a conflict.” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Donald Trump called to tell him he plans to recognize Jerusalem. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday warned the US about the dangers of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Recognizing Jerusalem ... Read More »

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