By Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi
JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated, scores were hurt and at least one killed in clashes with Israeli troops on a “day of rage” on Friday against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, thousands more demonstrators took to the streets on Friday, the Muslim holy day, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and outrage at Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. policy.
Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man near the Gaza border, the first confirmed death in two days of unrest.
The Israeli army said hundreds of Palestinians were rolling burning tyres and throwing rocks at soldiers across the border.
“During the riots IDF soldiers fired selectively towards two main instigators and hits were confirmed,” it said.
More than 80 Palestinians were wounded in the occupied West Bank and Gaza by Israeli live fire and rubber bullets, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service. Dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation. Thirty-one were wounded on Thursday.
As Friday prayers ended at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, worshippers made their way towards the walled Old City gates, chanting “Jerusalem is ours, Jerusalem is our capital,” and “We don’t need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs”. Some scuffles broke out between protesters and police.
In Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired back with tear gas.
In Gaza, controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, calls for worshippers to protest sounded over mosque loudspeakers. Hamas has called for a new Palestinian uprising like the “intifadas” of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005 that together saw thousands of Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis killed.
“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 as protesters in Gaza burnt posters of Trump. “We declare an intifada until the liberation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine.”
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday has infuriated the Arab world and upset Western allies. The status of Jerusalem has been one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians for generations.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state of their own. Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East War, to be occupied territory, including the Old City, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
For decades, Washington, like most of the rest of the international community, held back from recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying its status should be determined as part of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. No other country has its embassy there.
The Trump administration argues that the peace process has become moribund, and outdated policies need to be jettisoned for the sides in the conflict to make progress. Administration officials say all serious peace plans call for Israel to have its capital in Jerusalem, whatever the outcome of other issues.
Trump has also noted that Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all promised as candidates to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: “I fulfilled my campaign promise – others didn’t!” Trump tweeted on Friday with a video montage of campaign speeches on the issue by the three predecessors.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday it would still be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to hammer out all other issues surrounding the city in future talks.
“With respect to the rest of Jerusalem, the president … did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem. He was very clear that the final status, including the borders, would be left to the two parties to negotiate and decide.”
Still, some Muslim countries view the Trump administration’s motives with particular suspicion. As a candidate he proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, and in office he has tried to block entry by citizens of several Muslim-majority states. Last week he tweeted anti-Muslim videos by a British far-right group.
In Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, the leader’s religious affairs adviser said Trump’s stance was an affront to Islam and Christianity alike.
“America has chosen to elect a President that has put it in enmity with all Muslims and Christians,” said the advisor, Mahmoud al-Habbash.
In Iran, which has never recognised Israel and supports anti-Israel militants, demonstrators burned pictures of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while chanting “Death to the Devil”. Opposition to the U.S. move has united Iran’s pragmatist faction, which supports greater openness to the outside world, behind hardliners that oppose it.
In Cairo, capital of Egypt, a U.S. ally which has a peace treaty with Israel, hundreds of protesters who had gathered in Al-Azhar mosque and outside in its courtyard chanted “Jerusalem is Arab! O Trump, you madman, the Arab people are everywhere!”
The imam leading Friday prayer at Al-Azhar said the U.S. plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem was a “terrorist decision” that would add another settlement to those of Israel.
Large demonstrations also took place in Jordan, Tunisia, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Ammar Awad, Omar Fahmy and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Peter Graff)