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Israel

Palestinian leader Abbas to skip meeting with US Vice-President Pence over Trump’s Jerusalem decision

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit out at critics before meetings in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 3:22am

Palestinian protests waned in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on Sunday while violence flared near the US embassy in Beirut over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Four days of protests in the Palestinian territories over Trump’s announcement on Wednesday had largely died down, but his overturning of long-standing US policy on Jerusalem – a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians – drew more Arab warnings of potential damage to prospects for Middle East peace.

“Our hope is that everything is calming down and that we are returning to a path of normal life without riots and without violence,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Army Radio.

But Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, said the situation threatens to stoke violence.

“The US move could throw a lifebuoy to terrorist and armed groups, which have begun to lose ground in the region,” he said.

In Beirut, Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water canon at protesters, some of them waving Palestinian flags, near the US embassy.

Demonstrators set fires in the street, torched US and Israeli flags and threw projectiles towards security forces that had barricaded the main road to the complex.

Along Israel’s tense frontier with the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military on Sunday destroyed what it described as a “significant” cross-border attack tunnel dug by the enclave’s dominant Islamist group, Hamas.

There was no immediate comment on the demolition, which came as Palestinian factions tried to meet Sunday’s deadline for an Egyptian-mediated handover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas after a decade’s schism.

Predawn Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday killed two Palestinian gunmen after militants fired rockets from the area into Israel on Friday.

Israel says that all of Jerusalem is its capital, while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in a 1967 war, to be occupied territory and say the status of the city should be decided at future Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to critics in a statement before talks in Paris on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, to be followed by a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels.

“I hear [from Europe] voices of condemnation over President Trump’s historic announcement, but I have not heard any condemnation for the rocket firing against Israel ... and the awful incitement against us,” Netanyahu said.

The Trump administration has said it is still committed to reviving Palestinian-Israeli talks that collapsed in 2014.

It said Israel’s capital would be in Jerusalem under any serious peace plan, adding that it has not taken a position regarding the city’s borders.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has said the Palestinians will be looking for a new peace talks broker instead of the United States and would seek a UN Security Council resolution over Trump’s decision.

The White House said on Sunday it was “unfortunate” that Palestinians were declining to meet with Vice President Mike Pence during an upcoming trip to the region.
 
“It’s unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region, but the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan,” said Jarrod Agen, a deputy chief of staff and spokesman for Pence.