The Israel Defense Forces on Friday implored Palestinians not to follow “extremists who want to incite the street” over Jerusalem, as some 3,000 Palestinians held violent demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip to protest US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.
In a post on his Arabic Facebook account, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the military liaison to the Palestinians, stressed the US recognition would not affect Muslim access to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount — the holiest place in Judaism — which houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
“The status quo in Jerusalem in general and Al-Aqsa in particular is being preserved. Don’t listen to extremists’ incitement and calls for violence,” wrote Mordechai, according to a Hebrew translation from the IDF.
“It is important for me to clarify beyond all doubt that despite the rumors and lies, there is no change on the ground: Friday prayers are taking place as usual, the crossings are open, and [Palestinian workers] are entering Israel,” he added.
Calling on the Palestinians to ignore the “lies and distortions that this is a religious war,” Mordechai said violence would only harm the Palestinians themselves, who “are being incited by lies about a war [between] religions.”
“I implore you not to allow extremists to ruin the Christmas holidays, the tourists headed towards you or the calm without which positive [and] meaningful growth is likely to stall or be lost,” he said.
Several thousand Palestinians took to the streets on Friday to protest the US president’s decision on Jerusalem, with violent clashes taking place between demonstrators and Israeli security forces at some 30 places in the West Bank and Gaza.\
Palestinian officials said two demonstrator was killed at the Gaza border fence. One was killed in the afternoon, while another who suffered serious injuries died of his wounds hours later.
The Israeli army said it fired on two “inciters” at the fence. It said there were six points along the fence where protesters gathered and burned tires. The Red Cross in Gaza reported that 15 people were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets.
In the West Bank, Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and set fire to tires and rolled them at Israeli security forces, who generally retaliated with less-lethal riot dispersal equipment, like tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, and in some cases with live fire.
Palestinian officials reported over 200 people injured in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the vast majority of them lightly, from tear gas inhalation. Seven were hit by live bullets, and 45 by rubber bullets, the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said.
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday that Palestinians would “never back down” and “will not allow implementation” of new US policy in Jerusalem. He vowed that Palestinian “rage” would continue.
In a Wednesday address 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.
The move was hailed by Prime Minister 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.
Security assessments had expected tens of thousands to take part in the Friday protests and the IDF was particularly concerned that “lone wolf” attackers could try to carry out terror attacks, the Ynet news site reported.
Soldiers were stationed at potential confrontation points during the day and were later to deploy to prevent any attempts to carry out attacks on settlements over the Sabbath, the report said.
Agencies contributed to this report.