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Palestinian anger rises in growing protests over Trump Jerusalem move

Israeli soldiers injure dozens in protests over Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital
Palestinian protesters in Nablus burn an effigy of US President Donald Trump following his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital (AFP)

JERUSALEM - Dozens of Palestinians were injured on Thursday by Israeli soldiers as they protested against Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the wake of a call from Hamas for a new uprising.

Nine people were injured in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Two protesters were hit by rubber-coated steel bullets and five others were treated for tear gas inhalation in the town of Bethlehem, as Israeli soldiers fired on a peaceful march against the US president's declaration on Wednesday.

Eleven people were injured in Tulkarem city and 15 in Hebron and al-Bireh, where thousands of demonstrators rallied with chants of "Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine", witnesses said. 

One protester was hit by live fire and another 14 by rubber-coated steel bullets, medics said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers had used "riot-dispersal gear" against rock-throwers.

In Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, four Palestinians were injured by Israeli soldiers, one of whom was reported to have been hit by live fire and was in a critical condition.

Videos from Khan Younis showed smoke plumes rising from a series of fires set by Palestinians, a tactic used in the past to prevent reconnaissance missions of Israeli jets.

The Israeli military said on Thursday that an aircraft and a tank had targeted two posts belonging to militants in the Gaza Strip after three rockets were launched at Israel.

Two rockets launched from the besieged coastal strip fell short inside the Palestinian enclave earlier in the evening and a third, fired later, landed in an open area in Israel causing no casualties or damage, an army spokeswoman said.

Gaza residents said there were no casualties from the Israeli attack and that two unmanned lookout posts were hit.

A hardline militant group in Gaza called the Al-Tawheed Brigades - which does not heed the call from Hamas to desist from firing rockets - claimed responsibility for the launches.

Palestinians were also protesting outside the Old City of Jerusalem.

'People are disappointed'

Across the West Bank, Palestinians closed down their shops on Thursday in observance of a strike that Palestinian factions called for after Trump’s announcement.

In Ramallah, streets were empty and life was brought to a halt by the strike.

Jamal Juma’a, who was protesting near the illegal settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah, said there is immense anger among Palestinians, not only against Trump’s move, but also against their own leadership.

In a speech on Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas strongly condemned the embassy move and called for unity, but he stopped short of taking any drastic measure like resigning or dissolving the Palestinian Authority.

“People are disappointed in Abu Mazen (Abbas); his speech was very empty and subdued,” Juma’a told MEE.

He added that with the mounting anger and frustration, he predicts protests will escalate.

“We are bracing for a long day tomorrow,” he said of Friday.

The unrest came as Hamas, which controls Gaza, called for a new intifada or uprising against Israel. "We can only face the Zionist policy backed by the United States by launching a new intifada," the group's leader Ismail Haniyeh said in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile hailed Trump for his move.

In Jerusalem, Palestinians decried the decision, condemned by a huge majority of world leaders, as the latest treachery by the West.

An Israeli soldier fires towards Palestinians during clashes in Bethlehem on Thursday (Reuters)

Daoud, 27, who lives in the Old City, told Middle East Eye he felt "betrayed by the Arab nations and the entire world".

"Britain promised our land Palestine to the Jewish people and America gave Jerusalem to Israel," said Daoud. 

"We don't rely on anyone - even our leadership. It's up to us, the Palestinian people, to not be silent on all of this. We will lead the struggle. You saw that in the crises of the Aqsa last summer and you will see what will happen now." 

The Israeli military said on Thursday it was deploying reinforcements to the occupied West Bank in anticipation of unrest.

"Upon the conclusion of the general staff's situation assessment, it was decided that a number of battalions will reinforce in the area of (the West Bank), as well as combat intelligence and territorial defence," the military said.

"In addition, more standby forces were defined, as part of the readiness for possible developments."

In Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, to condemn Trump.

Young Palestinians also organised a late-night protest in the West Bank city of Nablus.

In Gaza, activists urged people via mosque speakers to take to the streets to protest the US decision.

Palestinians also switched off Christmas lights at the traditional birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem on Wednesday night in protest.

A Christmas tree adorned with lights outside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and another in Ramallah, next to the burial site of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, were plunged into darkness.

"The Christmas tree was switched off on the order of the mayor today in protest at Trump's decision," said Fady Ghattas, Bethlehem's municipal media officer.

More embassies on the way

Netanyahu said he was in touch with other countries about the possibility of moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.

The Philippines, Czech Republic and Hungary are among those who have reportedly discussed the idea.

Israel seized the eastern part of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its capital.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Several peace plans have unravelled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.

Most of the international community does not formally recognise the ancient city as Israel's capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations - a point reiterated by the UN's secretary-general, Antonio Guterres.

Guterres implicitly criticised Trump, stressing his opposition to "any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace".

A Palestinian woman walks past Israeli police near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on 7 December (Reuters)

- Reuters also contributed to this report

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