Monday 23 July 2018

US capital move 'declaration of war' - Hamas

Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Getty Images
Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Getty Images
A Palestinian man argues with an Israeli border policewoman during a protest yesterday near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: Reuters

Raf Sanchez

Hamas has called for new intifada against Israel in response to US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

"This Zionist policy supported by the US cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada," said Ismail Haniyeh, the Islamist militant group's leader, during a speech in Gaza.

He added: "The US decision is an aggression, a declaration of war on us, on the best Muslim and Christian shrines in the heart of Palestine, Jerusalem."

Israeli security forces are bracing themselves for potentially serious unrest today, when Palestinians often hold demonstrations after afternoon prayers. Israel's military said yesterday it was calling up reinforcements in the occupied West Bank as a precaution.

The UN Security Council will also hold an emergency meeting about the situation in Jerusalem. The meeting was requested by Britain and seven other members of the 15-member council.

By early afternoon yesterday 17 people had been wounded by Israeli army gunfire after protests erupted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank cities of Hebron and Al-Bireh, thousands of demonstrators rallied with chants of "Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine", witnesses said. Some Palestinians threw stones at soldiers. One protester was hit by live fire and another 14 by rubber bullets, medics said. A military spokeswoman said soldiers had used "riot-dispersal gear" against hundreds of rock throwers.

In the Gaza Strip, dozens of protesters gathered near the border fence with Israel and threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Two protesters were wounded by live fire and one was left in a critical condition, medics said.

The Czech Republic has announced it will partially follow the US lead in recognising West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

Hamas called for the intifada, or popular uprising, to begin today. "We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision," Mr Haniyeh said.

Hardline

Despite his hardline rhetoric, Mr Haniyeh gave no indication that Hamas planned to use its own substantial arsenal of rockets and other weapons in Gaza against Israeli forces.

Israeli intelligence believes that while Hamas is prepared to talk belligerently it is not eager for a fresh round of conflict with Israel, following three devastating wars in Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014.

Hamas and its rivals in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been in the midst of reconciliation talks which were due to culminate next week in Hamas handing over civil control of Gaza for the first time in a decade.

It is not clear what impact Mr Trump's announcement will have on the reconciliation process or if the handover, which has already been delayed once, will actually go ahead.

In the hours after the announcement, US embassies around the world put out warnings to American citizens. "The recent announcement that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may spark protests, some of which have the potential to become violent," the warning said.

Demonstrators gathered outside the US embassy in Jordan and the American consulate in Istanbul to protest against the decision, but they were largely peaceful.

Britain, along with Bolivia, Egypt, France, Senegal, Italy, Sweden and Uruguay requested that the UN Security Council meet to discuss the situation in Jerusalem.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said shortly after Mr Trump's announcement that the UK disagreed with the US decision. "We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it," Mrs May said.

The Czech foreign ministry said that it recognised Jerusalem as the "future capital" of an independent Palestinian state and would only move its embassy after negotiations with governments in the region.

Israeli media reported that both the Philippines and Hungary, which are both led by authoritarian leaders who admire Mr Trump, were also considering moving their embassies.

Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, was bullish over the prospect of other nations following Mr Trump in moving their embassies.

Irish Independent

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