Fifth day of protests in Middle East over Trump's Jerusalem move
ANWAR AMRO (AFP)
A fifth day of angry protests in the Middle East took place on Monday along with urgent meetings over US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, as Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas visited Cairo for crisis talks.
While tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with EU foreign ministers in Brussels, declaring that the move he has lauded as historic "makes peace possible".
The Israeli Prime Minister said he expected "all or most" European countries would follow the United States -- but the 28-nation bloc's foreign policy head Federica Mogherini gave him a stern rebuff, telling him to "keep his expectations for others".
- Lebanon -
Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006, organized the demonstration in Beirut's southern suburbs that saw tens of thousands chanting "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!"
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah apparently told supporters attending the rally that a new Intifada ("uprising" in Arabic) would be the most effective response, Haaretz reported.
- Palestinian Territories -
Rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza on Monday night, the third time in the past week.
In Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets in return in the latest such clash.
Some 27 Palestinians were wounded by live fire or rubber bullets throughout the day, the Red Crescent said.
While Palestinian demonstrations have declined in number and intensity since reaching a peak on Friday, there are concerns they will again increase later this week.
Four Palestinians have been killed so far in clashes or Israeli air strikes in response to rocket fire from Gaza, and hundreds have been wounded.
- Iran -
In Tehran, a few hundred diehard Iranian conservatives rallied against Israel and said Trump had hastened its demise with his decision.
"I don't think there will be a need to send any troops because there are a lot of people in Lebanon, Syria and inside the Palestinian Territories. They will be enough to get rid of the Israelis," said cleric Seyed Abdullah Hosseini.
- Egypt: Putin, Abbas -
During a visit to Cairo, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced Trump's decision as "destabilizing" while calling for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks.
On Monday, Abbas held talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt -- a key US ally in the region -- ahead of a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, on Wednesday.
"Our message to the entire world is that Jerusalem is a Palestinian city and the US decision is rejected and denounced," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, quoted by official news agency WAFA.
Abbas will refuse to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region later this month, Palestinian officials say, a move that led Washington to accuse the Palestinian leader of "walking away" from a chance to discuss peace.
- Turkey: Erdogan -
During a conference on Monday evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he and Putin had taken a similar approach on the issue as he accused Israel of continuing to "add fuel to the flames".
Erdogan has been perhaps the most outspoken in warning over the consequences of the move, referring to the US as a "partner to this bloodshed" while on Sunday calling Israel a "terrorist state" that "kills children".
Netanyahu hit back, calling Erdogan a leader who "bombs Kurdish villagers" and "helps terrorists".
- EU and Global Condemnation: Netanyahu, Trump -
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, the first such talks with an Israeli premier in 22 years and after the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini warned that Trump's move could take the situation "backwards to even darker times".
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Netanyahu to "show courage" and take measures to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, including freezing settlement construction in the West Bank.
Netanyahu, who has been dogged by corruption investigations against him at home, showed no sign of obliging, instead seeking to place blame on the Palestinians for stalled peace efforts.
Netanyahu later said that he told EU foreign ministers to "stop spoiling the Palestinians -- tell them clearly."
"I think that the Palestinians need to be brought back to earth, to reality," he said.
Mogherini said the "worst thing that can happen now is an escalation of tensions, of violence", and restated the EU's position that a two-state solution with Jerusalem as capital for both Israelis and Palestinians was the only sustainable way to resolve the conflict.
Trump's Jerusalem declaration upended decades of precedent and broke with international consensus, drawing global condemnation.
Jerusalem's status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Jerusalem is also home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the Arab and Muslim world has seen it as an afront.
Trump noted in his decision that Jerusalem's final status would have to be decided in negotiations between the two sides, but the Palestinians have not been convinced.
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