Thousands rally in Turkey and Jordan to protest US embassy move
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Thousands rally in Turkey and Jordan to protest US embassy move

Demonstrations come days before culmination of Palestinian protests timed to coincide with move of US embassy to Jerusalem

Protesters wave Turkish and Palestinian flags as they shout slogans against Israel and USA during a demonstration in Istanbul on May 11, 2018, against US President Donald Trum's policy to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the  a US embassy to the city. 
(AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE)
Protesters wave Turkish and Palestinian flags as they shout slogans against Israel and USA during a demonstration in Istanbul on May 11, 2018, against US President Donald Trum's policy to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the a US embassy to the city. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE)

Thousands of people rallied in Turkey and Jordan on Friday to protest against the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to mark the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call their “nakba,” or catastrophe of Israel’s founding.

In Jordan, the rally organized by the Muslim Brotherhood took place before a large stage with a view of the Dead Sea and the West Bank. Jordanian, Palestinian, and green Muslim Brotherhood flags flew over the crowd of some 7,000.

One man walked onto the stage with an effigy of US President Donald Trump dangling from a noose.

In Istanbul, several thousand people marched with Palestinian and Turkish flags. Many carried signs reading “Palestinian belongs to the Palestinians” and “Al-Quds belongs to Muslims.”

Women protestors hold placards reading “Al Quds belongs to muslims” on May 11, 2018 in Istanbul, during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city. (AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE)

The protest comes ahead of the anniversary next week that will be marked by mass demonstrations along the Gaza border, the culmination of a month of protest that has also focused on anger at the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassy to the city.

The embassy ceremony will take place on May 14, the anniversary of Israel’s founding according to the civil calendar. Israel marked its Independence Day last month, according to the Hebrew calendar.

Trump’s decision caused outrage in the Arab and Muslim world and sparked the weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border.

On Friday, around 15,000 Palestinians took part in protests along the border with Israel, in the last weekly “March of Return” before next week’s Nakba Day events on May 14 and 15, when demonstrations are expected to reach their peak.

It was the seventh weekly protest, and a preview of what is expected to be a much larger border rally on Monday and Tuesday. The Hamas-encouraged demonstrations are ostensibly aimed to protest the decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007, and to assert Palestinian demands for millions to “return” to lost properties in what is now Israel.

Israel says, however, that the terror group uses the protests as a cover for attacks at the border and attempts to breach it.

An Islamist terror group which seeks to destroy Israel, Hamas violently took control of Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from the Strip. Israel and Egypt maintain a security blockade of Gaza. Israel says this is vital to prevent Hamas — which has fought three rounds of conflict against Israel since seizing Gaza, firing thousands of rockets into Israel and digging dozens of attack tunnels under the border — from importing weaponry.

Earlier this week, Hamas’s leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said he hoped that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians would breach the border fence from Gaza into Israel during next week’s protests.

Sinwar said the mass protest would be “decisive,” and vowed that he and other top officials were “ready to die” in a campaign to end the blockade.

A demonstrator uses a slingshot to hurl stones during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Younis on May 11, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

In recent Fridays, Palestinian protesters have burned tires along the fence, hurled stones at Israeli troops and flown incendiary kites over dry fields on the Israeli side of the border. Some of the protesters, mainly youths, brandished wire cutters, a popular tool in weekly attempts to cut through the border fence.

According to the Hamas health ministry, around 50 Palestinians have been killed since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30 and hundreds of others have been wounded from gunfire. Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence, and attacks.

Israeli forces fire teargas canisters toward Palestinian demonstrators during clashes along the border with the Gaza strip on the eastern outskirts of Jabaliya on May 11, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities after the first Friday demonstration, but has since refrained for acknowledging whether its men are among the dead. Israel has identified other fatalities as members of terrorist groups.

Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, damage to the fence and attacks.

Though they were initially planned as non-violent demonstrations, the protests were co-opted by the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and whose leaders have said their goal is to erase the border and “liberate Palestine.”

The Israeli military has faced international and domestic criticism over its use of live fire, with the United Nations and European Union calling for an independent investigation rejected by Israel.

Israel says Hamas uses the marches as cover for terrorist attacks.

Israel has repeatedly expressed concern over the possibility of a mass breach of the Gaza fence, in which Palestinians would stream across with terrorists among them, wreaking havoc. Sinwar has vowed in the past that protesters would “breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Sinwar was freed in a prisoner swap with Israel in 2011 and was elected as the movement’s Gaza chief in 2017.

Hamas has said if the protests “don’t achieve their goals,” they will continue.

At previous peace talks, the Palestinians have always demanded, along with sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Old City, a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of Israel when it was established. The Palestinians demand this right not only for those of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are still alive — a figure estimated in the low tens of thousands — but also for their descendants, who number in the millions.

No Israeli government would ever be likely to accept this demand, since it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Israel’s position has generally been that Palestinian refugees and their descendants would become citizens of a Palestinian state at the culmination of the peace process, just as Jews who fled or were forced out of Middle Eastern countries by hostile governments became citizens of Israel.

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