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Israel

Palestinian stabs Israeli as tensions mount over Trump’s Jerusalem decision

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 10:28am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 11:11pm

A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard Sunday at the entrance to Jerusalem’s bustling central bus station, seriously wounding him in the first attack in the volatile city since US President Donald Trump recognised it as Israel’s capital.

In Beirut, scores of Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the heavily guarded US embassy over the recognition, while Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo demanded that the United States rescind Trump’s decision, calling it a “grave” development.

The violence came amid days of unrest sparked by Trump’s dramatic announcement Wednesday. The Palestinians staged three “days of rage,” with clashes breaking out in flashpoints around the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

It was not immediately clear whether the bus station attack was motivated by Trump’s move, which upended decades of US foreign policy and drew swift criticism from around the world, including US allies in Europe and the Middle East.

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Israeli police said the attacker was a 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli media identified him as Yassin Abu al-Qarah, who posted on his Facebook page in recent days about Jerusalem, writing “our blood is devoted” to the holy city. Comments on his profile called him a hero for allegedly carrying out the Jerusalem attack.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard sustained a serious wound to his upper body and the attacker was apprehended.

Israel’s Channel 10 TV news broadcast security camera video showing the attacker removing his jacket near the security gate and then thrusting what looked like a knife into the guard’s chest before fleeing.

Trump’s announcement raised fears about a new wave of violence. Four Palestinians were killed in Gaza in Israeli air strikes following rocket fire from there and in clashes along the border. In the West Bank, there were dozens of injuries, but no deaths.

Palestinian youths clashed Sunday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, hurling stones toward Israeli soldiers, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas.

There have been more than two years of intermittent attacks in which Palestinians have killed more than 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-rammings. Israeli forces have killed more than 260 Palestinians in that time, mostly attackers.

The status of Jerusalem is at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump’s move was widely perceived as siding with Israel. Even small crises over Jerusalem and the status of the holy sites in its Old City have brought deadly bloodshed in the past. Trump’s announcement was denounced by critics who suggested he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region. Israel captured the eastern sector of the city in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza, territories the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Lebanese security forces broke up the protest outside the US embassy after demonstrators pelted them with stones. The group gathered hundreds of meters (yards) outside the embassy to reject the move by Trump. After a rowdy start, the protest drew several hundred people and became more peaceful, with demonstrators chanting and singing.

The clashes resumed in the afternoon, with security forces chasing protesters, arresting a handful of them and lobbing tear gas. Lebanon is home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly 10 per cent of the population.

In a resolution long on rhetoric but short on concrete actions, Arab foreign ministers demanded the recognition decision be rescinded and also called for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump’s decision. They acknowledged that Washington would most likely veto it.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, defended Trump’s move Sunday, despite the opposition and violence it sparked.

“For those who want to say this is a bad idea, I’ll tell you: Ask us five or 10 years from now if you still think it’s a bad idea. Because I really do think this is going to move the ball in the peace process,” she told CNN’s State of the Union.