Fatah shuns US Vice President Pence over Jerusalem move

2017-12-10 09:50
Palestinians protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on December 8. (Mahmoud Illean, AP)

Palestinians protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on December 8. (Mahmoud Illean, AP)

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Ramallah - Fatah called on Palestinians to keep up their demonstrations over Washington's policy shift on Jerusalem as the movement confirmed its leader will refuse to meet with US Vice President later this month in protest at the controversial decision.

After protests gripped the West Bank and Gaza for a third straight day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due in Paris on Sunday where demonstrators had rallied on the eve of his arrival.

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

President Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital upended decades of American diplomacy, causing an overwhelming global diplomatic backlash.

Four Palestinians have now been killed and dozens wounded since Trump announced the new policy, which drew criticism from every other UN Security Council member at an emergency meeting on Friday.

In a statement Fatah urged Palestinians to "keep up confrontation and broaden it to all points where the Israeli army is present" in the West Bank.

Its leader - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas - also became the latest influential Arab figure to pull out of talks with Pence who will travel to the region later this month.

"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 cancelled 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

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

Retaliatory Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed two Hamas militants on Saturday while two others died near the border fence the day before.

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

An Israeli army 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 higher toll of 171 hurt in the West Bank and 60 in Gaza, with injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to tear gas inhalation and beating by security forces.

In Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, police fired stun grenades to disperse Palestinian demonstrators on the main Salahedin Street, an AFP cameraman said.

An Israeli police statement said four policemen were slightly injured and 13 protesters arrested.

US isolated

There have been fears of a much larger escalation of violence after Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group both renewed that call on Saturday.

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

Saturday's pre-dawn air strike on a base of Hamas's military wing in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip was one of several, the Israeli military said.

It said aircraft "targeted four facilities belonging to the Hamas terror organisation" a day after three rocket attacks from the Palestinian enclave into southern Israel.

One rocket hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot but did not cause any casualties.

Israel had already responded on Friday to rocket fire with air strikes which the Gaza health ministry said wounded 14 people, including women and children.

The Hamas health ministry in Gaza said the two men killed on Saturday were in the movement's armed wing, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

US isolated

Trump said his defiant 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.

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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