Clashes in West Bank, Gaza over US’ Jerusalem embassy move

Ramallah: The US State Department’s announcement to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May has triggered wide condemnation and protest in the Arab and Muslim world.

After the White House decision came out on Friday, clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. At least 32 Palestinians were injured, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.

Thousands of Palestinians protested in the afternoon in 14 different locations across the West Bank. Hundreds also demonstrated near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, Haaretz daily reported.

The embassy will initially be located in the Arnona neighbourhood in a building that now houses consular operations of US Consulate General in Jerusalem, said the State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert.

A new embassy annexe on the Arnona compound is expected to open by the end of 2019, Nauert added.

Although Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz tweeted on Friday to congratulate US President Donald Trump on his decision, the voice was outnumbered by the overwhelming majority of critics, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.

“This is an unacceptable step. Any unilateral move will not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Additionally, in Gaza, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem “is a declaration of war against the Arab and Muslim world”, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed the Trump administration’s plan, saying that the White House showed its determination “to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people”.

Mass protests and demonstrations have been going on every Friday in Gaza and the West Bank since Trump announced his intention to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December.