IDF sends reinforcements to West Bank as clashes escalate
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IDF sends reinforcements to West Bank as clashes escalate

Army says 'a number of battalions' to be deployed, including specialized intelligence units; protesters march in several West Bank cities shuttered by general strike

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli forces take position during clashes with Palestinian protesters in the West Bank village of Betunia near Ramallah on December 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Israeli forces take position during clashes with Palestinian protesters in the West Bank village of Betunia near Ramallah on December 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said it was deploying battalions to the West Bank as reinforcements, as clashes and scuffles broke out across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in anger over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian were fuming over Trump’s Wednesday speech, in which he defied worldwide warnings and insisted that, after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was long overdue. He described his decision as an acknowledgement of reality, as Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government.

Trump also revealed he had instructed the US State Department to prepare for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinians marched in several West Bank cities and threw rocks and firebombs at troops in some places. Scuffles were also reported at the Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem.

In Gaza, at least two Palestinians were reported injured by Israeli fire.

Palestinians take part in a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising. The Palestinian Authority also canceled classes for its West Bank school system for Thursday, in an apparent attempt to get more young Palestinians to clash with Israeli troops.

Donald Trump waving to reporters, as Vice President Mike Pence looks on, after announcing that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, Dec. 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

In light of a “situational assessment by the IDF General Staff,” that army said it “decided that a number of battalions will reinforce the area of [the West Bank], as well as combat intelligence and territorial defense units.”

The military would not specify the number of additional battalions being sent in the West Bank as reinforcements.

As of Thursday morning, the army had not called up reserve units, which would have indicated an expectation of greater violence.

On Wednesday, the Israel Police also announced that it would be deploying officers widely throughout the capital, including sites where violence is regularly expected.

“The Israel Police is prepared for an immediate operational response to a wide range of scenarios if necessary,” a police spokesperson said.

Outside the Old City of Jerusalem, small demonstrations — nonviolent, as of Thursday afternoon — were taking place between local residents and Border Police troops.

Palestinian leaders in the Fatah-controlled West Bank responded to Trump’s speech with outrage, declaring that the United States could no longer serve as Middle East peace broker.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the change in longstanding US policy “deplorable.”

Schools and shops were closed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as Palestinians protested Trump’s recognition and political groups called for protest marches in West Bank town centers at noon.

Palestinian men walk past closed shops in the West Bank city of Hebron as a general strike was called following US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017. (HAZEM BADER/AFP)

Several thousand Palestinians marched in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, burning US and Israeli flags and chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center-left, meets with other top officers during a tour of the West Bank on December 6, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

On Wednesday, ahead of Trump’s announcement later in the day, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot met with top military officers in the West Bank amid calls by terrorist groups for violence in the region over the recognition of Jerusalem.

During his inspection, the IDF chief visited a number of settlements and was briefed on the “crossings, infrastructures and technologies that have been put in place to improve the security and quality of life in the area,” the military said in a statement.

Eisenkot praised “the way in which the soldiers were operating to carry out their complex mission in the area, with commitment, professionalism, and smarts,” the army said.

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