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Mideast on edge ahead of Trump's move on Jerusalem

BEIRUT (AP) — Arabs and Muslims across a Middle East on edge warned Wednesday that President Donald Trump's anticipated announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital would inflame Muslim feelings worldwide and bring further chaos and instability to the region.

Jerusalem

A view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, is seen in Jerusalem's Old City, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital Wednesday, Dec. 6, and instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. His decision could have deep repercussions across the region. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)


Criticism poured in from Tehran to Ankara to war-ravaged Syria, reflecting the anxiety ahead of the announcement, which would upend decades of U.S. policy and could ignite violent protests.

U.S. officials have said Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. They expect a broad statement from Trump about Jerusalem's status as the "capital of Israel."

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. But it's also home to Islam's third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags. They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as "our eternal capital" and calling it a "red line."

Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza and which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization, has called for more protests over the coming days.

Hamas official Salah Bardawil said the Palestinians were "on a dangerous crossroad today; we either remain or perish." He added that "Trump or anyone thinking that our people, nation and resistance are unable to push back his plans is wrong."

Hamas' politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Jazeera TV that "our Palestinian people will have a suitable response. As a people, we cannot accept this American pattern."

In Beirut, a few hundred Palestinian refugees staged a protest in the narrow streets of the Bourj al-Barajneh camp, some of them chanting "Trump, you are mad."

"We came here to tell Trump that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine," said Nada Adlouni, a Palestinian refugee.

Two leading Lebanese newspapers issued front page rebukes to Trump over his expected announcement.

The An-Nahar newspaper compared the U.S. president to the late British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, who a hundred years ago famously promised Palestine as a national home to the Jewish People, in what is known as the Balfour declaration.

The paper's Wednesday headline read: "Trump, Balfour of the century, gifts Jerusalem to Israel."

The English-language Daily Star newspaper published a full-page photo of the Old City of Jerusalem capped by the Dome of the Rock beneath the headline: "No offense Mr. President, Jerusalem is the capital of PALESTINE."

The Arab League said it will hold an emergency meeting for foreign ministers Saturday, and Turkey announced it would host a meeting of Islamic nations next week to give Muslim leaders an opportunity to act together and coordinate following Trump's move.

Palestinian officials meanwhile declared the Mideast peace process "finished." The Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah met with European diplomats on Wednesday and told them that the expected U.S. shift on Jerusalem "will fuel conflict and increase violence in the entire region."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to convene advisers after Trump's expected announcement Wednesday to decide on a way forward.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, slammed Trump's imminent decision, while Syria's Foreign Ministry called it a "dangerous step" that will fuel global conflict. It described the move as the "culmination of the crime of the seizing of Palestine and the displacement of the Palestinian people," and urged Arab states to stop normalizing relations with Israel.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the "whole world is against" President Donald Trump's move and argued that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a "grave mistake."

Cavusoglu's remarks came just before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.

He said such a move would "not bring any stability, peace but rather chaos and instability."

 

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