Palestinians took to the streets on Wednesday to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s highly controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city.
People in Gaza City and the city of Rafah chanted “Death to America,” “death to Israel” and “down with Trump.” They burned American and Israeli flags as well as photos of Trump, who alerted world leaders of the decision on Tuesday and formally announced the news Wednesday afternoon.
Palestinian and Islamic groups have called for three days of “popular anger” against the president. Jordanian members of Parliament also staged a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Amman on Wednesday. In photos posted to social media, protesters in Bethlehem burned photos of Trump in advance of his speech.
The pending relocation marks a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy that is likely to inflame Israeli-Palestinian tensions. It upends America’s nearly 70-year stance of letting the two sides decide Jerusalem’s status among themselves.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Gaza, called the overnight protests “a small ball of fire that would roll and turn into a much larger ball later on… There is real concern here that this announcement could spark much larger protests. The move by the U.S. seems to have further unified the Palestinians.”
The coming days’ demonstrations were expected to take place across Palestinian territory and at U.S. embassies around the world.
In anticipation of the protests, the American consulate in Jerusalem forbade travel in parts of the city and in the West Bank for government employees, citing safety issues, and urged other U.S. citizens to take caution. The State Department also told other embassies to increase their security measures, according to The New York Times.
Security Message for US Citizens ️ pic.twitter.com/NCXhVK7daD
— USCGJerusalem (@USCGJerusalem) December 5, 2017
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Trump on Tuesday that the pronouncement from the White House would have “dangerous consequences.” Leaders from across the world have also condemned the move, which could jeopardize prospects for peace and enflame regional tensions.
Hamad Abu Sbeih, 28, a Palestinian resident of the walled Old City, vented his frustrations. “Trump wants to help Israel take over the entire city. Some people may do nothing, but others are ready to fight for Jerusalem,” he told Reuters on Wednesdaymorning. “This decision will ignite a fire in the region. Pressure leads to explosions.”
It’s unclear where a new embassy in Jerusalem would be located, and the lengthy and complicated moving process could take years.