Palestinian leaders hold emergency meetings to decide response to US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Israeli airstrikes killed two members of Hamas in Gaza in the early hours of Saturday after missiles were fired at Israel, one of which the community of Sderot, Israeli military sources said
The new Palestinian deaths bring the number of fatalities in the past two days to four. The Israeli army shot two Palestinians dead in Gaza on Friday.
The exchange of fire with Gaza is the latest outbreak of violence in the fallout from the decision by the US president, Donald Trump, to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Most countries around the world have not recognised Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem and maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Trump’s decision to break that consensus led to Washington being isolated at the UN security council on Friday. Its representative was forced to field strong criticism, including from five European countries which said US policy was not consistent with past resolutions.
The continued tensions over Trump’s announcement came as the Palestinian leadership started a series of emergency meetings on Saturday to decide on the response to US recognition and Trump’s parallel decision to move the US embassy from Tel Avi to Jerusalem.
Palestinian sources confirmed that their president, Mahmoud Abbas, would not meet the US vice-president, Mike Pence, when he visits the region later in December, and other measures under discussion including cutting ties with the Trump administration pushing peace negotiations.
Palestinians have been angered over a series of US decisions, including the passage in the House of Representatives of legislation that would cut aid if the Palestinian Authority does not stop its practice of paying salaries to Palestinian prisoners in US jails.
That in turn followed the threat to close the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s office in Washington.
“With the recognition of Jerusalem, the new law and the threat to the office the view is that the Americans can go to hell,” one official told the Guardian.
Palestinian officials see Trump’s actions as an opportunity to cut ties with what they see as increasingly biased US mediation and try to internationalise the issue.
The crisis has put renewed pressure on the elderly and risk-averse Abbas, whom many Palestinians blame for failing to deliver concrete results in the last decade.
Abbas’s control of the internationally funded Palestinian security forces and Palestinian bureaucracy, however, has kept him in office without a meaningful mandate, ruling by decree.
One of Saturday’s key meetings was scheduled to include representatives of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The latest moves came as the death toll in Gaza rose. The Israeli military said it targeted four Hamas facilities in response to rockets fired the previous day, including one that landed in the town of Sderot without causing casualties or major damage. It said it had struck military warehouses and weapons manufacturing sites, after which Hamas said it recovered the bodies of two of its men.
Israel considers Hamas responsible for all rocket fire emanating from Gaza, which is home to other armed groups. Some residents of Sderot and other border towns spent the night in shelters, fearful of a resumption of rocket attacks from Gaza that have led to three Israel-Hamas wars over the past decade.
Saturday marked the third Palestinian “day of rage” following Trump’s announcement, and more protests were expected.