By FARES AKRAM
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and dozens more wounded along with an Israeli officer in clashes across the West Bank and near Gaza’s border on Friday as the fallout continued over President Donald Trump’s announcement last week recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Protests in response to Trump’s announcement, which departed from decades of U.S. policy that the fate of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiations, have yet to relent across various Arab and Muslim countries in the region.
Following Friday prayers, Palestinians in the West Bank and along the Gaza border set fire to tires and threw rocks at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas and live fire.
Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said two Palestinians were killed from gunshots to the head. He identified one of the men as Ibrahim Abu Thraya, 29, a disabled man who had both legs amputated. He had taken part in several border skirmishes recently, images on social media show him carrying a Palestinian flag.
Another 82 Palestinians were injured in clashes in several locations along Gaza’s border with Israel, at least five of whom were seriously wounded, he said.
Another Palestinian died later from wounds sustained in clashes near Jerusalem, the health ministry said.
Friday’s deaths put to eight the number of Palestinians killed since Trump’s declaration on Dec. 6.
The Israel military said thousands of “Palestinian rioters” rolled burning tires and hurled firebombs and rocks at security forces, who responded with tear gas and also “fired selectively toward main instigators.”
Palestinians have been clashing with Israeli troops across the West Bank and along the Gaza border since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week. The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza has called for a new armed uprising against Israel in response to Trump’s declaration.
East Jerusalem is home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites and the fate of the territory is an emotionally charged issue at the heart of the conflict. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war from Jordan, as the capital of their hoped-for state. Israel says the entire city, including east Jerusalem, is its eternal capital.
Palestinians were infuriated by Trump’s announcement because they saw it as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Trump’s move disqualified the U.S. from continuing in its role as the traditional mediator of peace talks.
Trump said his decision merely recognizes the reality that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital and is not meant to prejudge the final borders of the city.
Vice President Mike Pence, however, was forced to delay a trip to the Middle East amid the outcry over Trump’s decision. Aides to Abbas said that the Palestinian president would not meet with Pence, who is now scheduled to arrive in Israel from Egypt on Wednesday. Abbas had originally planned to host Pence, a devout Christian, in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. White House officials also said Pence had no plans to visit the contested city’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre — the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.
Also Friday, in another declaration likely to enflame passions among Palestinians and others across the Middle East, senior Trump administration officials outlined their view that the Western Wall in east Jerusalem, considered Judaism’s holiest site, will ultimately be declared a part of Israel.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told The Associated Press that such a policy that “decides unilaterally” on issues of final status negotiations is “unacceptable.”
Meanwhile Friday, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, one Palestinian was shot and killed after he attacked an officer with a knife, stabbing him twice and wounding him moderately, said Israeli police. Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police are investigating the incident, and whether the attacker posed as a journalist to get close to the Israeli officer and if he was carrying explosives.
Video of the incident later emerged online, showing the alleged attacker retreating after apparently stabbing the officer. Israeli forces shoot him in the legs and again after he falls. A suicide bomb belt then becomes visible underneath his jacket, but it was not immediately clear if it was authentic. As two ambulances approach, the forces fire several more gunshots at the man and medical teams are forced to wait before evacuating him. The Palestinian Health Ministry said he died of his wounds.
In east Jerusalem, protesters waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Jerusalem is Arab” as they walked the narrow streets of the Old City. Some threw bottles of water at police.
The clashes were fiercer in the West Bank where about 13 protesters were injured by live fire and 61 by rubber bullets while dozens more were treated for tear gas inhalation, according to the Red Crescent.
In the city of Nablus, some Palestinians used slingshots to hurl rocks at Israeli security forces while others torched tires to use the thick plumes of smoke as cover. Others, masked, threw firebombs at an armored water cannon used to disperse crowds.
Associated Press writers Ian Deitch in Jerusalem, and Ken Thomas in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.