Tense scenes as unrest over US Jerusalem move continues

Dozens injured and arrested as rallies continue for fourth day after US decision to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital.

Protests have broken out for a fourth day across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip following a US decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The demonstrations on Saturday came as Palestinian leaders were to meet in Ramallah to firm up a response to US President Donald Trump‘s controversial move.

In East Jerusalem, Israeli forces fired stun grenades and tear gas as they charged – some on horseback – through a crowd of at least 100 peaceful demonstrators in Salah Eddin, one of the city’s busiest shopping streets.

At least 13 Palestinians were detained and 12 injured as Israeli troops pushed and beat demonstrators at the scene. Among those held was Jihad Abu Zneid, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. 

Before her arrest, Abu Zneid told Al Jazeera the protesters were determined to “never give up”.

“This is our country and we will save it,” she said. ‘We will save our capital and our sovereignty here in Jerusalem.”

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from the protest in Occupied East Jerusalem, said a series of running confrontations erupted after Israeli security forces blocked a small group of protesters from marching. 


“It started as a small peaceful protest, a handful of people who wanted to make sure their voices could be heard,” he said.

“But their way was blocked and they were forceably pushed back by Israeli police and soldiers who said the protesters had no permit to march and they were blocking the road.”

As crowds gathered by the side of the street, police sent in officers on horseback to break up the crowds, creating widespread anger and panic.

“The riders even used their whips. It really was quite frightening for the people standing here, watching these horse racing towards them,” said Fisher.

Israeli forces also closed down most shops on Salah Eddin and confiscated Palestinian flags and posters from demonstrators.

“One police officer didn’t like a poster that a woman was holding. He went to take it, the woman objected so he punched her full in the face,” said Fisher.

A wounded Palestinian protester is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
A wounded Palestinian protester is evacuated during clashes with Israeli troops in the southern Gaza Strip [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Elsewhere, funerals were held in Gaza for two Hamas fighters and two protesters who were killed, respectively, by Israeli air raids and live fire on Friday.

At least 25 Palestinians, including six children, were wounded in the evening bombing, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Israeli raids followed the alleged launching of rockets from inside the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from the edge of Gaza City, close to the border with Israel, said clashes continued on Saturday but they were not as intense as Friday – a day off for those who are employed in the besieged territory.

“It’s less busy than it was yesterday,” he said, noting that several dozens of mainly stone-throwing protesters where confronting Israeli security forces on the other side of the border fence.

“The Israelis are responding with live fire. I’ve heard some cracks of gunfire in the last few minutes,” said Smith.

Further south, in Khan Younis, a slightly larger crowd of about 200 protesters also clashed with Israeli forces.

Israeli forces also fired tear gas at Palestinians protesting on Saturday in Bethlehem. 

On Friday, the Red Crescent said that its workers had attended to nearly 800 injuries in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

‘War declaration’

The tense scenes follow Trump’s decision to ignore warnings from the international community and his announcement last Wednesday that the US was formally recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and would begin the process of moving its embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

The move, which broke with decades of policy, was roundly condemned by world leaders, who described it as a “dangerous escalation” and the final nail in the coffin of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel says the city, which is under Israeli occupation, cannot be divided.

Speaking on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the relocation of the US embassy would probably not take place for at least two years.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the Palestinian leadership was considering all options in response to Trump’s announcement.

In a speech in Gaza City on Thursday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said the US move was a “war declaration against Palestinians”, and called for a new Intifada, or uprising.

“This decision has killed the peace process, has killed the Oslo [accord], has killed the settlement process,” he said.

“The US decision is an aggression, a declaration of war on us, on the best Muslim and Christian shrines in the heart of Palestine, Jerusalem. We should work on launching an Intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” said Haniya.

With reporting from Ibrahim Husseini in Occupied East Jerusalem.

An Israeli border guard fires a tear gas grenade towards Palestinians near the illegal Jewish settlement of Beit El [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]
An Israeli border guard fires a tear gas grenade towards Palestinians near the illegal Jewish settlement of Beit El [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera