Fifth Day of Clashes Rock West Bank and Gaza; 36 Palestinians Reported Wounded

Senior Hamas official: 'Popular struggle' will continue in Gaza, but will be contained to avert war with Israel

A Palestinian protester throw a stone during clashes with Israeli troops following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus on December 8, 2017.
Majdi Mohammed

Violent clashes broke out Monday for the fifth consecutive day in several locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Palestinians protested against U.S. President Donald’s Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian factions called for the ramping up of protests on Tuesday across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

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The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 36 Palestinians were injured in the West Bank, some shot by live fire and rubber-tipped bullets. The confrontations were focused in Hebron, Ramallah, Jericho and Tulkarm. Four people were reportedly injured in Ramallah by live fire, one in Hebron and one in Tulkarm. All the injuries were described as mild or moderate.

In Gaza, 37 people were evacuated to hospitals with injuries from live fire or rubber-tipped bullets, while another 60 were treated on the ground by Palestinian Red Crescent paramedics. Observers expected the protest around the Gazan-Israeli border fence to last several days with the encouragement of Hamas, but they will not be allowed to get out of hand. A senior Hamas official told Haaretz that the organization does not want to instigate a military confrontation but rather to maintain the “popular struggle.”

“It’s the reason that there is no rocket fire, and they don’t want to give Israel a reason to open a destructive military campaign,” he said. “The trend is to continue the popular struggle and to send the protest message to the world.”

For Tuesday, Fatah called for marches that departed from major city centers, including Ramallah, toward Israeli military checkpoints and other confrontation sites. On campuses, student unions are planning to participate in protests. West Bank universities announced that studies would stop at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday for a protest march against Trump’s Jerusalem announcement. Another call went on in Gaza to hold a march in the direction of the border fence.

The events of the last few days have hurt tourism as the Christmas holiday approaches. Industry sources in Bethlehem report many hotel cancellations because of the clashes and tension. Yet they hold out hope that the atmosphere will calm down in the coming days, bringing tourists and pilgrims to the city’s hotels.

Preparations for the planned visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to Bethlehem next week were canceled. Municipal officials say they are committed to respecting the decision by the political leadership.

The mayor of Bethlehem, Anton Salman, told Haaretz that according to information that he possesses, Pence will not visit Bethlehem at this point, and there is not plan to welcome him. “We are committed to the political leadership, and we made it clear that we have no intention of welcoming him even if he decides to visit anyway.”

The street in Bethlehem also sends a signal of rage about Trump’s decision that sparked the violence and badly hurt tourism just ahead of Christmas.

Pressure is also being put on church leaders in the West Bank not to receive him and to adopt the position of Egyptian church leaders, who made a similar decision.