Palestinians protest US shift on settlements in ‘day of rage’

Thousands of Palestinians gathered in the West Bank on Tuesday, Nov. 26 to voice their outrage over U.S. policies and Israel's treatment of prisoners.

Majdi Mohammed/AP
A Palestinian man near the West Bank city of Ramallah holds a poster depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as clashes broke out Nov. 26, 2019 after the U.S. stated it no longer considers Israeli settlements illegal.

Thousands of Palestinian protesters took part in a “day of rage” across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, with some groups clashing with Israeli forces to protest the U.S. announcement that it no longer believes Israeli settlements violate international law.

Around 2,000 people gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah by midday, where they set ablaze posters of U.S. President Donald Trump as well as Israeli and American flags. Schools, universities, and government offices were closed and rallies were being held in other West Bank cities.

“The biased American policy toward Israel, and the American support of the Israeli settlements and the Israeli occupation, leaves us with only one option: To go back to resistance,” Mahmoud Aloul, an official with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, told the crowd in Ramallah.

Demonstrators held signs reading: “Trump to impeachment, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to jail, the occupation will go and we will remain on our land.”

At Israeli checkpoints near Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron, dozens of protesters threw stones at Israeli forces who responded with tear gas. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Organized by Fatah, Tuesday’s “day of rage” protested the Trump administration’s announcement on Israeli settlements last week. The decision upended four decades of American policy and embraced a hard-line Israeli view at the expense of the Palestinian quest for statehood.

Israeli leaders welcomed the U.S. decision, while the Palestinians and most of the world say the settlements are illegal and undermine hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up land sought by the Palestinians.

Israel says the fate of the settlements should be determined in negotiations, even as it steadily expands them.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and quickly began settling the newly conquered territory. Today, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two areas, which are both claimed by the Palestinians for their state.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last week that the United States was repudiating the 1978 State Department legal opinion.

That opinion had been the basis for more than 40 years of carefully worded U.S. opposition to settlement construction that had varied in its tone and strength, depending on the president’s position. President Ronald Reagan, for instance, said settlements were not inherently illegal, though he called them unhelpful and provocative. Other administrations had called them “illegitimate” and “obstacles to peace.”

The protests came just hours after the death of a Palestinian prisoner, Sami Abu Diak, in Israeli custody. In a statement, Israel's prison service said he was serving three life sentences for voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping, among other charges.

Previous deaths of terminally ill Palestinian prisoners have sparked protests and accusations of medical negligence on the part of Israeli authorities.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

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