Israel was preparing Saturday for fresh riots and demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, amid calls from terror group Hamas for wide-scale confrontation.
Hundreds of Palestinians were marching Saturday morning from the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis toward the border fence, with dozens of ambulances standing by in expectation of clashes, Hadashot news reported. Protests were also reported along the fence in northern Gaza and near Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem in the West Bank.
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 on Friday after midday prayers.
Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel, 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 people 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.
The Israeli army said it was braced for more protests on Saturday, and it had stepped up the deployment of troops at West Bank settlements in an attempt to thwart any attempted terror attacks. It said the 5,000 demonstrators on Friday marked a lower number than anticipated, but expected protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Friday night.
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 said Saturday.
On Friday, Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, called on the Palestinian public to confront IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers across the West Bank in demonstrations on Saturday. There was also sporadic rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel.
Several hours later overnight Friday-Saturday, Israeli Air Force attacked four Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including two weapons production sites, a weapons depot, and another training compound.
Palestinian officials said two demonstrators were 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, the 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 protesters also burned pictures and effigies of Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli and American flags.
In an unusual move, Palestinian Authority security forces allowed demonstrators to carry Hamas flags, Israel Radio reported. It said some Palestinians branded the protests the start of a new intifada uprising.
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.
The Israel Defense Forces said it knew of at least 10 injured Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli officials said six Palestinians were arrested during the protests.
No soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces or Border Police were reported injured.
Among the estimated 30 demonstrations in the West Bank, the largest took place in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Al-Arroub, Tulkarem, Qalandiya, and Bayt Ummar, the army said. Smaller demonstrations were also reported in Ramallah, Nablus, Hawara, and Nabi Saleh.
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.
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.”
A protest erupted briefly at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, and was cleared by police. Demonstrators threw objects at the security forces deployed there. Israel Radio said Arab members of Knesset were seen in the crowds.
The Red Crescent said that one injured Palestinian man was transferred from Damascus Gate to the hospital after being injured by police.
Israel had bolstered its security deployment in Jerusalem, but despite the heightened alert, police did not impose any restrictions on Muslim worshipers praying at Al-Aqsa. (At times of expected violence, Israeli authorities sometimes limit access to the site for young men.)
Additional IDF battalions were also sent into the West Bank.
In Gaza, thousands took to the streets and marched to denounce Trump’s proclamation.
The Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump had issued “a declaration of war against the Palestinian people,” Army Radio reported. The US president had harmed the Arab and Muslim nation, the Fatah spokesman said. “Someone with no right to intervene has awarded [Jerusalem] to someone with no right to it,” the radio reported quoted the spokesman saying.
On Thursday, Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
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 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.