Far fewer Palestinians turn out on second day of protests over Jerusalem
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Arab protesters stone bus in northern Israel

Far fewer Palestinians turn out on second day of protests over Jerusalem

Hundreds rally, compared to thousands of Friday; 19 arrested; PA says Palestinians to look for a 'new broker' in peace talks as US has 'picked a side'

A Palestinian protester pulls a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 9, 2017, following the US president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
A Palestinian protester pulls a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 9, 2017, following the US president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in violent protests across the West Bank on Saturday, the Israeli military said, in a substantial decrease from the thousands that rioted the day before over the decision last week by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Some 600 Palestinian demonstrators at 20 flashpoints in the West Bank threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at Israeli troops, and also set tires on fire and rolled them at soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal weapons such as tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, the army said.

Six Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank, and six were lightly wounded in the clashes, the IDF added.

In East Jerusalem, Israeli police said at least 13 Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones and other objects at officers during clashes. Police also said that four officers were lightly injured Saturday afternoon during clashes in the East Jerusalem Salah Ad Din neighborhood outside of the Old City. The officers were all transferred to nearby hospitals for treatment.

In the Gaza Strip, approximately 450 Palestinians gathered and protested at eight locations along the security fence with Israel on Saturday, the army said.

During the violent demonstration, one Palestinian crossed the fence into Israel. He was arrested by Israeli troops and taken in for questioning, the army said. There as well, demonstrators threw rocks at troops. They also rolled burning tires at the fence itself.

A Border Police sniper takes aim across the Gaza border toward demonstrations along the security fence, on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

The troops, coming from both the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police, responded mostly with riot dispersal weapons, but also used live rounds against “two of the main instigators, and hits were confirmed,” the army said.

In northern Israel, three people were treated for light injuries after Arab protesters in the Wadi Ara area threw stones at an Egged bus traveling on Route 65 near the town of Ar’ara. The driver of the bus and two passengers received medical attention on site. Police said they arrested two people from the town for rioting.

A bus window is shattered by a rock thrown by Arab Israeli protesters in the northern city of Wadi Ara on December 9, 2017. (Magen David Adom)

In southern Israel too, some 100 people protested in the Bedouin town of Rahat. There were no reports of violence.

In a White House speech on Wednesday, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Palestinian rioters throw stones towards Israeli troops at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

But Palestinians called for “days of rage” on Friday and Saturday and protests were held across much of the Muslim world as well as in some European capitals.

Palestinian terror group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada, urged Palestinians to confront Israeli soldiers and settlers, and vowed to continue violence until the liberation of Jerusalem.

Palestinians survey the damage at a military facility belonging to the Hamas terror group in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip early on December 9, 2017, following an Israeli air strike in response to Gazan rocket fire. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel on Friday, with one landing in the southern town of Sderot; Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas targets. On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said two Hamas gunmen were killed in one of the strikes on a Hamas facility in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The rocket on Sderot caused minor damage and no injuries.

Friday saw some 5,000 Palestinian protesters demonstrating and clashing with Israeli security forces at almost 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midday prayers.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Palestinian Muslim worshippers shout slogans during Friday prayer in front of the Dome of the Rock near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Jerusalem’s Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)

Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”

The army was expected to hold a review of the situation on Saturday evening and decide on the continued deployment of additional troops in the area, Israel Radio reported.

Diplomatic tensions also escalated Saturday, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas indicated that he would not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank this month.

Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said that Abbas won’t meet Pence “because the US has crossed red lines” on Jerusalem.

Abbas had called Trump’s decision “reprehensible” and a “deliberate undermining of all peace efforts,” while warning that the move ended Washington’s historic role as the key sponsor for Israel-Palestinian peace talks.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said the Palestinians would look for a new broker for peace talks as “the US has picked a side.”

“We are not abandoning the peace process,” he said, “but we will look for a new broker.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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