Friday, December 15, 2017

Israel: Four Dead And Hundreds Injured In Clashes, Another Gaza Rocket Fired, Pope To Meet With Jordan's King Abdullah Amid Jerusalem Tensions

4 Palestinians dead, hundreds injured in clashes ahead of Mike Pence's visit

For the second Friday in row, thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and across the occupied West Bank turned out to protest more than a week after President Donald Trump's announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and days before his vice president visits the region.
Nearly 400 Palestinians were injured today across the Palestinian territories, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Four Palestinians have also been shot dead by Israeli forces, two in the West Bank and two in Gaza, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Today was the deadliest day since Trump's Dec. 6 announcement, and the funerals are expected to be held Saturday.
In Gaza, one of the two Palestinians killed was 29-year-old Ibrahim, a paraplegic who lost both legs during an Israeli airstrike in the 2008-2009 war with Israel, his family told ABC News.

In the West Bank, a Palestinian wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt stabbed an Israeli Border Police officer today before being shot and seriously wounded, Israeli police said.
The officer sustained moderate injuries and the Israeli police have tweeted a picture of the knife. The stabbing occurred between the settlement of Beit El and the West Bank Palestinian city of Ramallah.
Throughout the Old City today, Palestinians clashed with Israeli border police in the narrow, walled streets.
In Jerusalem, after Friday prayers, worshippers chanted "Jerusalem will always be an Arab city," as they left al Haram al Sharif, or the Temple Mount, after praying at al Aqsa Mosque. There were no age restrictions for Friday prayers, Israeli Police Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld said.

#Jerusalem will always be an arab city, chants #Palestinian
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) December 15, 2017
Demo in #alAqsa mousqe against #Trump’s #Jerusalem deceleration
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) December 15, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence was expected to be in the region early next week, but his visit has been delayed until Wednesday because of the U.S. Senate tax bill vote, according to his office. He will now fly to Egypt Tuesday to meet with President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, before landing in Tel Aviv Wednesday and visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem Wednesday evening.
He's expected to speak to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Thursday and dine with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He's not expected to meet with any Palestinian leaders, according to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' office.

Four Palestinians died on Friday afternoon after being shot in clashes with Israeli security forces during protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said, as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated for a second week against Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
A Palestinian who stabbed an Israeli Border Police officer in the upper torso before being shot, died on Friday evening, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said, naming him as Mohammed Aqal, 29.
Aqal stabbed and moderately wounded the Israeli officer, who was later reported to be in stable condition in the hospital. When officers noticed he was wearing what appeared to be a suicide bomb belt, they shot him again, fearing he would detonate it, police said.
He was taken away by Palestinian medics and later died of his wounds, the health ministry said.
Hadashot news said the suicide belt was a model that did not contain actual explosives.
In the West Bank on Friday, some 2,500 Palestinians took part in violent protests, the IDF said, thousands less than in the week before.

Following noon-time prayers, riots were reported in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and Nablus. Demonstrators burned tires and threw petrol bombs and rocks at Israeli troops, who fired back at them with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In Jerusalem itself, around 30,000 people prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, according to the Islamic organization that administers the site.

A rocket fired at Israel Friday evening from the Gaza Strip fell short and struck a house in the Palestinian enclave, the Israel Defense Forces said.
In a post on its Arabic Facebook page, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians — said the rocket hit a home belonging to an Egyptian family in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.
“Once again the terror groups launch rockets rockets at the residents of Gaza,” COGAT said.
It did not say if anyone was injured by the rocket.
A Hadashot news report said the rocket damaged the home of the brother of a senior Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri.
COGAT noted it was the second such incident this week. On Wednesday, a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza also fell inside the Palestinian territory and hit a public school, damaging a classroom, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, said at the time.
Friday’s failed rocket launch came amid a large rise in the number of rocket attacks on Israel from the Strip over the past week.
On Wednesday night, four rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel. Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, a third struck an open field and the fourth hit the school, according to Israeli officials.
In the past week, over a dozen rockets have been fired from Gaza. A number of them fell short, five were shot down by the Iron Dome and six struck Israel, two of them causing damage in the southern town of Sderot.
This has been the largest incidence of rocket fire from the Strip since the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. According to Israeli assessments, these rockets are not being launched by Hamas, but by other terrorist groups in the Strip.

The Israel-Gaza tensions have been fed by Washington’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Protesting US President Donald Trump’s December 6 declaration that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital, terror group Hamas, which runs Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, called for a new intifada and vowed to liberate Jerusalem.
Two Gazans were killed in clashes with IDF troops along the Gaza border earlier Friday.

Pope Francis will meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Vatican next week, the Holy See announced Friday, as Palestinians continued to clash with Israeli forces over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The pope and King Abdullah, who is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, are likely to discuss the ongoing tensions, though the Vatican never indicates topics of discussion for such meetings in advance.
On Sunday, the pope called for “respect of the status quo” in Jerusalem and warned against “a new spiral of violence.”
Abdullah has denounced the Jerusalem announcement as “a violation of international rights.”
Jordan controlled East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, from 1948 until 1967, when it was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Jordan’s status as the custodian of the holy sites was reaffirmed by the country’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
Jerusalem, which contains sites considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims, is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians.
The announcement of the meeting between Pope Francis and King Abdullah came as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday for a second week against Trump’s decision, although the protests initially appeared to draw smaller crowds than the previous week’s.

Turkey’s president said Friday that Muslim nations will ask the United Nations for an “annulment” of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the initiative would start at the UN Security Council and if it’s “vetoed there, we will work within the UN General Assembly for the annulment of this unjust and lawless decision.”
The US has a veto in the Security Council, while the General Assembly is non-binding.
Erdogan spoke to a rally in the central province of Konya via teleconference on Friday.
His comments followed Wednesday’s summit of Muslim and Arab nations — the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation — which declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and urged the world to recognize the state of Palestine.

Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of Trump’s December 6 decision on recognizing Jerusalem.
With the Islamic world itself mired in division, the Wednesday summit in Istanbul fell well short of agreeing on any concrete sanctions against Israel or the United States.
But its final statement declared “East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine” and invited “all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”
The statement declared Trump’s decision “null and void legally” and “a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts” that would give impetus to “extremism and terrorism.”

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