Palestinian stabs Israeli amid tensions over Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard Sunday at the entrance to Jerusalem’s bustling central bus station, seriously wounding him in the first attack in the volatile city since President Donald Trump recognized it as Israel’s capital.

In Beirut, scores of Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy over the recognition, while Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo demanded that the United States rescind Trump’s decision, calling it a “grave” development.

The violence came amid days of unrest sparked by Trump’s dramatic announcement Wednesday. The Palestinians staged three “days of rage,” with clashes breaking out in flashpoints around the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

It was not immediately clear whether the bus station attack was motivated by Trump’s move, which upended decades of U.S. foreign policy and drew swift criticism from around the world, including U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East.

Israeli police said the attacker was a 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli media identified him as Yassin Abu al-Qarah, who posted on his Facebook page in recent days about Jerusalem, writing “our blood is devoted” to the holy city. Comments on his profile called him a hero for allegedly carrying out the Jerusalem attack.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard sustained a serious wound to his upper body and the attacker was apprehended.

Israel’s Channel 10 TV news broadcast security camera video showing the attacker removing his jacket near the security gate and then thrusting what looked like a knife into the guard’s chest before fleeing.

Trump’s announcement raised fears about a new wave of violence. Four Palestinians were killed in Gaza in Israeli airstrikes following rocket fire from there and in clashes along the border. In the West Bank, there were dozens of injuries, but no deaths.

Palestinian youths clashed Sunday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, hurling stones toward Israeli soldiers, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas.

There have been more than two years of intermittent attacks in which Palestinians have killed more than 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-rammings. Israeli forces have killed more than 260 Palestinians in that time, mostly attackers.

The status of Jerusalem is at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Trump’s move was widely perceived as siding with Israel. Even small crises over Jerusalem and the status of the holy sites in its Old City have brought deadly bloodshed in the past. Trump’s announcement was denounced by critics who suggested he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region. Israel captured the eastern sector of the city in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza, territories the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Lebanese security forces broke up the protest outside the U.S. Embassy after demonstrators pelted them with stones. The group gathered hundreds of meters (yards) outside the embassy to reject the move by Trump. After a rowdy start, the protest drew several hundred people and became more peaceful, with demonstrators chanting and singing.

The clashes resumed in the afternoon, with security forces chasing protesters, arresting a handful of them and lobbing tear gas. Lebanon is home to 450,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly 10 per cent of the population.

In a resolution long on rhetoric but short on concrete actions, Arab foreign ministers demanded the recognition decision be rescinded and also called for the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump’s decision. They acknowledged that Washington would most likely veto it.

If the U.S. vetoes the resolution, the Arabs would seek a similar resolution in the U.N. General Assembly, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki told a pre-dawn news conference in Cairo.

A two-page resolution adopted by the emergency meeting, which began Saturday night, did not include any punitive actions against the U.S., such as a call for a boycott of American products or changes to ties with Washington.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., defended Trump’s move Sunday, despite the opposition and violence it sparked.

“For those who want to say this is a bad idea, I’ll tell you: Ask us five or 10 years from now if you still think it’s a bad idea. Because I really do think this is going to move the ball in the peace process,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump’s move was embraced in Israel as a long overdue acknowledgement of Israel’s seat of parliament and government and the historic capital of the Jewish people dating back 3,000 years. Upon departing for a diplomatic visit to Paris and Brussels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was prepared to respond to critics.

“While I respect Europe, I am not prepared to accept a double standard from it. I hear voices from there condemning President Trump’s historic statement but I have not heard condemnations of the rockets fired at Israel or the terrible incitement against it,” he said. “I am not prepared to accept this hypocrisy, and as usual at this important forum I will present Israel’s truth without fear and with head held high.”

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, called for a boycott of Arab businesses in an area where residents took part in violent protests of the U.S. recognition.

Lieberman said the Arabs of Wadi Ara in northern Israel were “not part of us” and that Jewish Israelis should no longer visit their villages and buy their products. Hundreds of Arab citizens of Israel protested Saturday along a major highway in northern Israel, where dozens of masked rioters hurled stones at buses and police vehicles. Three Israelis were wounded and several vehicles were damaged.

Lieberman has long called for Wadi Ara to be included in his proposed swap of lands and populations as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. The residents, like many of Israel’s Arab minority, sympathize with the Palestinians of the West Bank and often openly identify with them. But they are also Israeli citizens who largely reject the notion of becoming part of a future Palestinian state.

The comments sparked criticism of racism and collective punishment toward a community of which only a small minority were violent. It also raised questions about how Israel could aggressively oppose international boycott campaigns against it while one of its most senior ministers called for one against its own citizens.

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