Fresh: Hamas head urges new intifada as Palestinians rage against Trump move

Palestinian youths set tires ablaze during a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“This Zionist policy supported by the US cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada,” the head of the armed Palestinian terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip said in a speech in Gaza City.

Several thousand Palestinians marched in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, burning US and Israeli flags while chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

In the West Bank, The Palestine Liberation Organization announced a strike in protest across the territory, shutting schools and businesses. Marches were planned in major Palestinian cities at noon.

Rioters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli cars on a road near the West Bank village of Rantis, outside Ramallah. There were no reports of injuries.

Israel said it would beef up security with “a number of battalions,” preparing for the possibility of violence following Trump’s announcement.

Haniyeh called for quickly finishing a reconciliation process with Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s Fatah party in order to create a united front against Israeli and American policy, rejecting the idea of an Israeli state or Israeli capital.

“Jerusalem is united; there’s no eastern or western [Jerusalem]. It is an Arab Palestinian Islamic capital of the State of Palestine,” Haniyeh said, decrying “the blatant and blind bias of the American administration and this satanic alliance.”

“I say today that Palestine is also one and united from the sea to the river. It cannot be divided into two states or two entities. Palestine and Jerusalem are ours. We do not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation and the existence of Israel on the land of Palestine in order for it to have a capital,” he said.

Hamas had issued warnings in recent days as news of Trump’s intentions spread, and it reacted to his Wednesday speech with another.

“This decision will open the gates of hell on US interests in the region,” Hamas official Ismail Radwan told journalists after Trump’s announcement.

He called on Arab and Islamic states to “cut off economic and political ties with the US embassy and expel American ambassadors to cripple” this decision.

Fuming Palestinian leaders in the Fatah-controlled West Bank responded to Trump’s speech with outrage, declaring that the United States could no longer serve as Middle East peace broker.

President Mahmoud Abbas called the change in longstanding US policy “deplorable.”

“These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts,” Abbas said in a speech after Trump’s announcement.

He said it amounted to “an announcement of US withdrawal from playing the role it has been playing in the past decade in sponsoring the peace process.”

Abbas is scheduled to travel to Jordan on Thursday to coordinate a response to Trump’s decision with King Abdullah II.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization who long served as the Palestinians’ top negotiator, said Trump had “destroyed the two-state solution.”

“As a chief Palestinian negotiator, how can I sit with these people if they dictate on me the future of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?” he said.

“I think tonight he is strengthening the forces of extremists in this region as no one has done before,” Erekat said, referring to Trump.

After the announcement, Palestinian officials said they switched off the lights to the giant Christmas tree in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the city where Jesus was born, in protest.

In his Wednesday address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable for that.

The announcement upturns decades of precedent and runs counter to international consensus, with no other country currently taking the same stance.

Jerusalem’s status is among the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the US traditional position has been that it must be negotiated between the two sides.

While Israel has long considered Jerusalem its capital, with the prime minister’s office and parliament building located there, countries have avoided recognizing it as such to prevent damaging hopes for a two-state solution.

The Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

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