By ILAN BEN ZION
JERUSALEM (AP) — Clashes between hundreds of Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops erupted across the West Bank on Thursday while demonstrators in Gaza burned posters of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli and U.S. flags.
The leader of the Hamas militant group, which runs Gaza, called for a new armed uprising in a widespread show of anger over Trump's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
In the West Bank, crowds of protesters set tires on fire and hurled stones at anti-riot troops. In the biblical town of Bethlehem, troops fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse a crowd, in clashes that could cloud the upcoming Christmas celebrations in the town of Jesus' birth. In Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, protesters set tires on fire, sending a thick plume of black smoke over the city.
Trump's dramatic break on Wednesday with decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem counters long-standing international assurances to the Palestinians that the fate of the city will be determined in negotiations. The Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as a future capital.
Palestinians shuttered their schools and shops on Thursday to begin three "days of rage" over Trump's decision. Rallies were underway in other West Bank cities, and a demonstration was being held outside the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City.
There were no serious casualties reported in Thursday's clashes. But Friday, the Muslim holy day, could provide an important test when Palestinians gather for weekly mass prayers.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas' leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Palestinians to launch a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel on Friday.
"The American decision is an aggression on our people and a war on our sanctuaries," Haniyeh said in a speech, urging supporters "to be ready for any orders."
"We want the uprising to last and continue to let Trump and the occupation regret this decision," he said.
Hamas, a group that seeks Israel's destruction, killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks in the early 2000s. But the group's capabilities are more limited now. Gaza, Hamas' stronghold, is closed by an Israeli blockade, while in the West Bank, many of its members have been arrested. Nonetheless, it possesses a large arsenal of rockets capable of striking much of Israel.
Spontaneous protests sparked in Gaza overnight, with angry youths burning tires, American and Israeli flags and Trump posters.
The Israeli military said it would deploy several battalions to the West Bank ahead of Friday, while other troops have been put on alert to address "possible developments."
The conflicting claims to Jerusalem, and especially its Old City, where sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites are located, lie at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Trump's decision had no impact on the city's daily life, it carried deep symbolic meaning, and was seen as siding with Israel and an attempt to impose a solution on the Palestinians.
Israel, which claims all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, has welcomed Trump's decision. Netanyahu said Trump "bound himself forever" to the history of Jerusalem with the move and claimed other states are considering following suit.
"We are already in contact with other states that will make a similar recognition," he said at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.