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Violence flares at US embassy in Beirut

December 10, 2017

Demonstrators at the US embassy in Beirut were met with tear gas as they protested US President Trump's announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Rallies also took place elsewhere around the globe.

Libanon Proteste gegen US-Entscheidung zu Jerusalem
Image: Reuters/M. Azakir

Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Lebanese security forces outside the US Embassy in Beirut during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Protestors near US embassy in Beirut
Protesters in Beirut remained undeterred while being cordoned off with barbed wireImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Hussein

Lebanese security forces were seen firing tear gas and water cannon at the protesters — some of whom were seen waving the Palestinian flag and burning an effigy of Trump as well as Israeli flags. The protesters gathered hundreds of meters (yards) away from the embassy building and did not appear to pose a direct threat to embassy staff.

Some of the protesters also lit fires in the street surrounding the embassy and reportedly threw projectiles toward the security forces who had barricaded the main road leading to the US Embassy in the Awkar area north of Beirut.

Lebanon is home to nearly half a million Palestinian refugees, making up almost 10 percent of the country's population.

Violence in Israel and across the Palestinian Territories

At least four people were killed and a dozen others injured during clashes with Israeli police on the weekend, as protests continued in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Two Palestinian protesters were killed during clashes in Gaza on Friday and another two reportedly died in airstrikes on Saturday.

Palestinian protesters also clashed with Israeli police across the West Bank after Friday prayers, as Muslims across the region joined for a "day of rage."

The leader of the militant Islamic Hamas movement in Gaza has started pushing for a third intifada, or violent 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.

"We declare an intifada until the liberation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine."

Military action in Gaza

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said that it has destroyed a tunnel built by Hamas militants leading from Gaza into Israel. The tunnel was reportely demolished using new technology that the military declined to describe, while also refraining from explaining how Israel had discovered the tunnel. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus added that no one was injured in the tunnel’s destruction.

"The IDF [Israel Defence Forces] discovered, disposed and demolished another terror tunnel," Conricus said.

"We understand that this specific tunnel was very advanced."

Reactions around the world

The US decision has ignited protests across the Middle East and other parts of the world, where the move is widely seen as a pro-Israel stance that could endanger the region's stability. The Arab League was among those who condemned the move.

Jakarta protests
Protests also erupted in Indonesia, attracting thousands across the countryImage: Reuters/D. Whiteside

Major demonstrations also took place in Jordan, Tunisia, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia, where about 10,000 people rallied outside the US Embassy in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Wearing traditional Islamic white robes, the protesters in Jakarta were seen holding Indonesian and Palestinian flags and chanting "US Embassy, Get Out from Al Quds," using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

Similar protests, which had mostly been organized by the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), were also held in other cities in Indonesia — the world's most populous Muslim nation. A written statement from PKS described Trump's decision as "a form of humiliation and provocation against Muslims all over the world."

Earlier in the day, another group, calling itself Indonesia's Volunteers Society, held a similar rally in Jakarta, hundreds of meters (yards) from the US embassy.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has meanwhile condemned Trump's move, which he described as a violation of UN resolutions. Indonesia has long been a strong supporter of Palestinians and has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

ss,bik/jlw (AP, Reuters)