Fatah vows fresh protests and shuns Pence over Jerusalem move
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Fatah vows fresh protests and shuns Pence over Jerusalem move

US ‘crossed all the red lines,’ says Abbas spokesman, confirming cancellation of meeting with US vice president

A Palestinian protestor pushes a burning tire towards Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus, on December 9, 2017, following a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (AFP PHOTO/ AAFAR ASHTIYEH)
A Palestinian protestor pushes a burning tire towards Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus, on December 9, 2017, following a demonstration against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (AFP PHOTO/ AAFAR ASHTIYEH)

The ruling Palestinian Fatah party late on Saturday called on Palestinians to keep up their demonstrations, many of which have led to violent clashes with Israeli security forces, over Washington’s policy shift on Jerusalem last week.

The movement also confirmed that its leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, would refuse to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence later this month in protest of the controversial decision.

After protests gripped the West Bank and Gaza for a third straight day Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due Sunday in Paris, where demonstrators rallied on the eve of his arrival. Saturday’s protests in the West Bank were markedly reduced from Friday, and demonstrations Saturday in East Jerusalem were relatively minor.

Arab League ministers, convening in an emergency meeting in Cairo late Saturday, urged Washington to rescind its Jerusalem decision.

​In an address Wednesday from the White House, 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.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The move was hailed by 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.

The move, however, drew criticism from every other UN Security Council member at an emergency meeting on Friday.

In a statement that circulated overnight Saturday, Fatah urged Palestinians to “keep up confrontation and broaden it to all points where the Israeli army is present” in the West Bank.

Abbas also became the latest influential Arab figure to pull out of talks with Pence, who will travel to the region later this month.

Mahmoud Abbas gives a speech during a meeting of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 21, 2017. (FLASH90)

“There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine,” Abbas’s diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khaldi told AFP. “The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem decision.”

Egypt’s Coptic Pope Tawadros II also canceled a meeting with Pence, saying Trump’s announcement had failed to take into account the “feelings of millions” of Arabs.

Ahmed al-Tayeb, who heads Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim institution, has also pulled out of a planned meet.

New clashes

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

A number of rockets were fired at Israel on Friday from Gaza for a second consecutive day. At least one was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, but two landed in a residential area of the town of Sderot, without causing injuries.

Israel later launched a series of airstrikes on Hamas targets in response to the rockets. In one of the IAF strikes on a Hamas base in Nusseirat, located in the central Gaza Strip, two Hamas gunmen were killed. The Hamas health ministry said the two were in the terrorist movement’s armed wing.

Hamas leaders have called for a new intifada to liberate Jerusalem, and urged Palestinians to confront settlers and soldiers. An Islamist terror group, Hamas seeks to destroy Israel.

The flare-up on the Gaza border came as some 5,000 Palestinian protesters demonstrated and clashed with Israeli security forces on Friday at almost 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midday prayers.

There were fresh clashes Saturday as Palestinian protesters in the West Bank hurled stones and flaming tires at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds. Two Palestinian protesters were killed in the clashes.

Mourners vented their anger at the funerals of those killed. An Israeli bus was also stoned near Arab towns in Israel’s northern Wadi Ara district, injuring the driver.

An Israeli Defense Forces statement said “violent riots have erupted at approximately 20 locations” in the West Bank and Gaza with soldiers using “riot dispersal means” that lightly injured three Palestinians.

The Palestinian Red Crescent gave a toll of 171 hurt in the West Bank and 60 in Gaza, most of them lightly, with injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to tear gas inhalation and beating by security forces.

In East Jerusalem, police fired stun grenades to disperse Palestinian demonstrators on the main Salahedin Street. An Israel Police statement said four officers were slightly injured and 13 protesters arrested.

Tens of thousands have also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.

US isolated

Trump said his move — making good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge — marked the start of a “new approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Washington has found itself increasingly isolated on the global stage.

Five European countries on the Security Council insisted the new US policy was inconsistent with past resolutions, including one declaring East Jerusalem to be Israeli-occupied.

The UN meeting was largely symbolic as no vote on a resolution was planned because the US wields veto power.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (C) attends an emergency foreign ministers meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)

After an emergency meeting on Saturday, Arab League foreign ministers released a resolution calling on Washington to reverse its Jerusalem policy.

The decision is likely to impact domestic Palestinian politics, particularly between Abbas’s Fatah and the Islamist Hamas, now at a key stage in a fragile reconciliation process after a decade of bitter enmity.

Hamas, which violently seized Gaza from Fatah in 2017, is due to formally hand back power on Sunday.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said Saturday the group “reiterated its commitment to all that has been signed and agreed upon and the completion of the handover.”

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