Israel 'in touch with 10 countries' over embassy moves

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Virginia Mayo, AP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Virginia Mayo, AP)

Doha - Israel's deputy foreign minister has said her government is "in contact with at least 10 countries" over the potential relocation of their embassies to Jerusalem.

Tzipi Hotovely's comments on Monday came a day after Guatemala announced plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, following a similar decision by the US earlier this month which sparked widespread international condemnation and mass rallies across the Muslim world.

READ: Palestine slams Guatemala's bid to move embassy to Jerusalem

Speaking to state radio, Hotovely did not specify the countries in question but said "some" of them are "in Europe".

"So far we have only seen the beginning," she said, adding that US President Donald Trump's decision would "trigger a wave" of followers.

Widespread protests

The status of Jerusalem is one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leaders want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says the city cannot be divided.

Breaking with decades of policy, Trump announced on December 6 that the US recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said his administration would be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City.

Currently, there are no embassies in Jerusalem.

Following Trump's announcement, a resounding majority of UN member states - 128 countries - last week voted in favour of a resolution declaring Washington's move "null and void".

Guatemala, the US, Israel and six other countries voted against the resolution at the emergency UN General Assembly meeting on Thursday. No European country voted against the resolution, but several abstained.

See how each country voted here.

In a statement on Monday, the Palestinian foreign ministry criticised Guatemala for its plans to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem.

"It's a shameful and illegal act that goes totally against the wishes of church leaders in Jerusalem" and of last week's UN General Assembly resolution, it said in a statement.

Bolivian President Evo Morales also slammed Guatemala for following in Washington's footsteps.

"In a complete act of mockery of the international community, the government of Guatemala ignores the resolution of the UN (General) Assembly and decides to move its embassy to Jerusalem," he wrote on his Twitter account.

Trump's decision to unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital pitted the US against some of its own allies, and prompted Palestinian leaders to say that Washington can no longer have a role in the peace process.

The move also triggered a wave of mass rallies in major international cities - from Jakarta, through Istanbul, to Rabat, in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians.

In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, demonstrations have been met with violence by Israeli forces, who fire live ammunition, disperse tear gas canisters, and carry out a wave of arrests against protesters.

More than 2 900 people have been left injured and more than 500 have been jailed.

In the Gaza Strip, several Israeli air raids killed at least six people and wounded  many others.

In total, at least 15 people have been killed across the occupied Palestinian territories in the last three weeks.

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