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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 »

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 »

Trump in Israel: the peace process, the embassy question and a self-inflicted wound

During his campaign Donald Trump made bold promises related to Israel that he must face on his first official visit to the country. But he also has to deal with an unexpected issue of his own making. For someone who thinks of himself as an adroit dealmaker, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, provides some of the most difficult ties to unknot in global affairs. That's why it was not surprising that Donald Trump, author of the Art of the Deal and in his own estimation a skilled negotiator, jumped on the chance to insert himself into the minefield that is Middle Eastern politics. So ahead of Trump's first presidential visit to Israel here's a look at two promises he made regarding Israel and the Middle East that he will now have to confront as well as a third unplanned topic, he will also have to deal with. Trump's reported disclosure of secret intelligence The reported divulging of classified information originating from Israel by President Trump in the White House during a high-profile visit by the Russian Foreign Minister and Moscow's US ambassador is unlikely to be on the official itinerary when Trump meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet it would be unusual if this incident, which is extremely sensitive for both sides, would not somehow be broached during the presidential visit. "I believe that the last affair regarding intelligence materials that were disclosed to third parties is going to affect the relationship a little bit because this is beyond the regular relationship of the two relationship communities and infringes the tradition in that field”, said Gilead Sher, who served as chief of staff for former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. That is why due to the sensitive nature of the issue it will "probably be discussed and cleared not in front of the cameras and not as part of the official visit, but behind closed doors between the leaders and I believe that it will be resolved eventually in a way that would be satisfactory to both parties," said Sher. The US embassy question Trump, during his campaign, repeatedly promised to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital. Palestinians who also claim the city as a future capital of a Palestinian state oppose this, as do Jordan and other Arab states. Since 1995, all American presidents have chosen to walk the same fine line on the issue after Congress passed a directive calling on the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there. They have signed waivers delaying the relocation every six months for national security reasons. And it looks like Trump will now join his predecessors and do the same. "Most people think that the campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has at a minimum been put on the back burner for now," said Michele Dunne, director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "So that is unlikely to happen. But he could still say or do things that somehow recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital." The Israeli-Palestinian peace process While Trump is expected to backtrack on his campaign vow to relocate the US embassy, he is not expected to shelve what was arguably his most audacious promise: to reach a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. To the contrary, Trump earlier this month - during a White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas - appeared to double down on his pledge when he said in reference to a peace deal: "We will get done." "Trump wants to announce or preside over the recommencement of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians," said Josh Saidoff, fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) via email. Since his remarks during the Abbas visit and especially since it was announced that Trump would visit Israel during his first international trip as president less than four months after taking office - his predecessors Obama and Bush both visited Israel during their second term - there has been speculation about whether the president would use his Israel trip to officially re-launch the stalled US initiative to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. "From an Israeli perspective, if I see a process with a hands-on American presidential involvement starting at the end of this visit, I would say this would mark a success for all parties concerned," said Gilead Sher, who served as chief Israeli negotiator at the Camp David summit and the Taba peace talks with the Palestinians. But Sher qualified that he would only regard a new US peace effort as serious if it went beyond a mere one-time meeting. Asked whether he believes Trump is aware of the challenges of brokering a peace deal and capable to overcome them, Sher said he sincerely hopes so. "I think that President Trump is well positioned to facilitate a US-led effort towards that aim once the two state for two people solution is articulated in a way that is binding and continuous." Carnegie's Middle East expert Michele Dunne is more skeptical: "There is no indication at this point that there is any kind of well-formed strategy or approach to the Middle East peace process. They are still in exploration mode."

During his campaign Donald Trump made bold promises related to Israel that he must face on his first official visit to the country. But he also has to deal with an unexpected issue of his own making. For someone who thinks of himself as an adroit dealmaker, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, provides some of the ... Read More »

Palestinians abducted from bus in Egypt’s Sinai

Unidentified gunmen have kidnapped four Palestinians after stopping a bus in Egypt, officials have said. The rest of the passengers, who were travelling between Gaza and Cairo, were allowed to travel on. A Hamas official and Egyptian security sources reported that the abduction occured Wednesday night in the northern Sinai region. Eyewitnesses reported that masked militants opened fire into the air, before fleeing with four people. Security sources told the Reuters and Associated Press news agencies that the bus was heading from Gaza to Cairo's airport. "We are making urgent contacts with the highest levels of Egyptian authorities to follow up on the circumstances of what happened and we urge the Egyptian interior ministry to secure the lives of the kidnapped passengers and free them," spokesman Eyad al-Bazoum said. Nobody has as yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and authorities are still investigating, but eyewitnesses told The Associated Press that they believed the militants came from the Egyptian affiliate of the "Islamic State" group. Calling itself "Sinai Province," the group is active in that part of the country, where an insurgency has grown since the army overthrew President Mohammed Morsi two years ago. The group has claimed a string of attacks on military and police targets in Egypt, something which prompted the Egyptian government to introduce broad "anti-terror" laws.

Unidentified gunmen have kidnapped four Palestinians after stopping a bus in Egypt, officials have said. The rest of the passengers, who were travelling between Gaza and Cairo, were allowed to travel on. A Hamas official and Egyptian security sources reported that the abduction occured Wednesday night in the northern Sinai region. Eyewitnesses reported that masked militants opened fire into the ... Read More »

Gaza war: Egypt mediates between Israel, Palestinians

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have resumed indirect talks mediated by Egypt on ending the month-old Gaza war. A new 72-hour truce appears to be holding. Egyptian mediators have launched fresh talks in Cairo aimed at reaching a permanent truce in Gaza. So far, Israel and Hamas have stuck to the latest 72-hour ceasefire bid. Hamas is demanding the opening of a seaport and an end to land blockades on Gaza imposed by Egypt and Israel, which, in turn, has called for the disarmament of militants before it agrees to a longer truce. Late Sunday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the fresh negotiations as "the last chance" for an agreement. High toll Israel's monthlong assault has claimed the lives of more than 1,900 people, about 75 percent of them civilians, according to the United Nations, including nearly 500 children, with close to 10,000 Palestinians wounded. Ground combat within Gaza left 64 Israeli soldiers dead. Three civilians within Israel died as a result of rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian militants. Israel first launched its offensive on July 8, purportedly to stop rockets from being fired from Gaza and to destroy a network of tunnels used by militants for cross-border attacks. According to the United Nations, at least 425,000 of the Gaza Strip's 1.8 million people have sought refuge in emergency shelters or been taken in by host families. Israel's attacks have destroyed or severely damaged 12,000 homes. Shaky truce sticks On Monday, Israeli officials said no rockets had been fired since the latest truce started and that the Israeli military had not targeted any locations in Gaza either. However, violence between the two sides continued right up to the start of the new truce, with the Qassam Brigades - the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement - claiming it had launched a missile toward Tel Aviv shortly before midnight. The rocket launch was confirmed by Israel, but the military reported that "no fall was identified." For its part, Israel announced that it had targeted 11 groups of militants late on Sunday. Egypt's Foreign Ministry has urged both sides to work towards "a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement." However, Israeli representatives will not meet face-to-face with the Palestinian delegation, which includes members of Hamas, regarded by Israel and some of its allies as a terrorist organization. Should Israel and Egypt agree to partially lift the land blockade on Gaza, German and EU forces could have a role in enforcing the border. A previous ceasefire had fallen apart on Friday morning after an initial round of indirect talks in Egypt. In the occupied West Bank over the weekend, Israeli forces police killed at least two protesters during demonstrations against the Gaza assault.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have resumed indirect talks mediated by Egypt on ending the month-old Gaza war. A new 72-hour truce appears to be holding. Egyptian mediators have launched fresh talks in Cairo aimed at reaching a permanent truce in Gaza. So far, Israel and Hamas have stuck to the latest 72-hour ceasefire bid. Hamas is demanding the opening of ... Read More »

Palestinians, Israeli soldier killed in Gaza offensive

Israel has reported its first casualty since the beginning of its ground operation in Gaza. Nearly 20 Palestinians died as troops clashed overnight. The attack is aimed at halting rocket fire from Hama militants. Israel's military said that one soldier was killed in the northern Gaza Strip early on Friday morning as the country expanded its offensive by sending in ground troops. Hamas claimed to have ambushed Israeli troops in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, causing the soldier's death, but Israeli media reported the casualty was most likely the result of friendly fire between Israeli troops. Speaking to Army Radio, Israel's chief military spokesperson, Brigadier General Moti Almoz said "there were a number of points of friction through the night," adding the military was investigating the circumstances behind the soldier's death. The military said later in a statement that 14 militants had been killed in a number of battles throughout Thursday night and Friday morning. Early on Friday, Palestinian officials said around 20 Palestinians had been killed since the Israeli ground offensive began. The deaths brought the total Palestinian death toll to 258, in what until Thursday had been strictly an air offensive, Ashra al-Kidra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza said via Twitter. Another 1,980 have been injured, he added. The Israeli ground operation began late Thursday after Hamas rejected an Egyptian truce proposal and Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the operation was launched to strike "terror tunnels" from the Gaza Strip into Israel. link:17792606:A five-hour truce# on Thursday allowed many of the 1.7 million Gaza residents to leave their homes to buy food, water, which had become increasingly difficult since the conflict began last month. Israeli military using 'very great force' Armored vehicles, artillery and intelligence units as well as infantry have moved into Gaza and are conducting operations along with the air force and navy, the Israeli military said Thursday. Chief military spokesman Moti Almoz called on Gaza residents to evacuate targeted areas, warning the "military is operating there with very great force." The Israeli attacks have damaged water and electricity supplies in Gaza. Since July 8, Israeli strikes have hit more than 2,000 targets in Gaza and Hamas launched nearly 1,500 rockets at Israel, the Israeli military has said. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to "do far more" to stop civilian casualties. "There can be no military solution to this conflict," Ban said. Israel last carried out a major ground offensive in Gaza in January 2009.

Israel has reported its first casualty since the beginning of its ground operation in Gaza. Nearly 20 Palestinians died as troops clashed overnight. The attack is aimed at halting rocket fire from Hama militants. Israel’s military said that one soldier was killed in the northern Gaza Strip early on Friday morning as the country expanded its offensive by sending in ... Read More »

Israel, Palestinians, US meeting Sunday

JERUSALEM: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet jointly Sunday with US envoy Martin Indyk, as attempts continue to prevent the collapse of peace negotiations, officials close to the talks said. The first three-way meeting since Wednesday comes as Washington reviews its push for a peace deal after a spiral of tit-for-tat moves by Israel and the Palestinians took hard-won negotiations ... Read More »

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