Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas, has called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, after US President Donald Trump's announcement on Wednesday. Violent protests have erupted in the West Bank.
The influential Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for a new uprising against Israel, starting on Friday. Speaking in Gaza on Thursday, Hamas' leader Ismail Haniyeh said, "We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy." He also said, "We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision."
Taking to Twitter, Hamas also described the US decision as being a declaration of war.
Meanwhile, there have been violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops across the West Bank and along the Gaza-Israel border, with stones being hurled at anti-riot troops. Israeli soldiers turned water cannons on Palestinians in Bethlehem, and fired tear gas. Around 15 demonstrators were reportedly wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
The Palestinian Authority has called a general strike in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and schools and shops in these areas remain closed. Hundreds took to the streets on Wednesday, burning American and Israeli flags and 10 Palestinians were arrested in East Jerusalem overnight after Molotov cocktails were thrown.
Hamas' declaration has heightened fears that violence and unrest on the streets of the Israeli-occupied territories could escalate in the coming days. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that the Israeli military would be deploying more troops to the West Bank ahead of Friday's planned protests.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the latest head of state to publicly criticize Trump's decision. He described Trump's actions as throwing the Middle East into a "ring of fire."
Saudi Arabia's royal court made a rare public rebuke of the US on Thursday, saying Trump's announcement was "unjustified and irresponsible." The US' move puts the Sunni nation in a difficult position, because the kingdom has had close ties to Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Iraq's senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said Trump's announcement had "hurt the feelings of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims.'' He called on the "Umma," or Islamic nation, to combine forces to restore Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem — no matter how long it takes.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, leader of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, said on Thursday, "Such unilateral recognition violates various resolutions of the UN Security Council, of which the United States is a permanent member. It could also shake global stability."
Eight members of the UN Security Council, including Britain, France, Egypt, Italy and Sweden have called for an emergency meeting to discuss the US' move, which will be held on Friday.
This comes after many countries sought to distance themselves from US policy on Wednesday. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter that the German government "does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution."
Trump bound to Israel forever
Speaking at Israel's foreign ministry on Thursday, Israel's Netanyahu was full of praise for Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "President Trump bound himself forever with the history of our capital," he said. "His name will now be proudly displayed alongside other names in the city's glorious history."
Netanyahu also claimed that Israel is in contact with other countries that plan to follow the US' move. "We are already in contact with other countries that will make a similar recognition, and I have no doubt that as soon as the American embassy moves to Jerusalem, and before that, many embassies will move to Jerusalem."
However, he did not name any of these countries.
Two-state solution further out of reach
Trump's recognition of the contested capital has been interpreted by Palestinians as putting an end to the possibility of a two-state solution. In his speech, Trump claimed, "The US remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides," he said. "I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement."
However, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, said that Trump had destroyed all hopes of such a peace deal. "He destroyed the two-state solution." Meanwhile, Hamas has said that Trump's decision will "open the gates of hell" on US interests in the region.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has described Trump's announcement as "reprehensible." He said that it will undermine peace efforts and embolden Israel "to pursue the policy of occupation, settlement, apartheid and ethnic cleansing."
Abbas is traveling to Jordan on Thursday to meet with King Abdullah II, who is seen as the Palestinians' closest Arab ally. There is speculation that the two leaders may try to coordinate a response to Trump's announcement.
The competing claims to Jerusalem, particularly the Old City, with its significant Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump's decision has profound symbolic meaning for both sides.
A spokesman for Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah, which is part of the government in Beirut, described Trump's declaration as a "treacherous and malicious aggression" against the rights of Palestinians," adding that the only way for them to restore their lost rights was through armed "resistance."
Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel, although there have been no recorded instances of fighting since 2006. Repeated Hezbollah attacks forced Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon in 2000, and the group went to war with Israel once again in 2006.
dm, cl/msh (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)