World reacts as US prepares for deeply controversial embassy move to Jerusalem

Palestinian demonstrators burn tires near the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City, as Palestinians readied for protests over the inauguration of the US embassy following its controversial move to Jerusalem (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Updated 14 May 2018
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World reacts as US prepares for deeply controversial embassy move to Jerusalem

  • US President Donald Trump is not thought to be attending the opening of the new embassy building
  • Hundreds of police will be on duty around the embassy during the ceremony

DUBAI: The United States moves its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on Monday after months of global outcry, Palestinian anger and exuberant praise from Israelis over President Donald Trump's decision tossing aside decades of precedent.
While a White House delegation and Israeli officials gather for the inauguration ceremony Monday afternoon, Palestinians are expected to protest in large numbers near the Gaza border with Israel and perhaps elsewhere.
Hundreds were already beginning to gather in Gaza on Monday morning and preparations were being made. Piles of tyres were being delivered to the border to be set alight and buses were shuttling demonstrators from cities to the border area.
There are concerns the Gaza protests less than 100 kilometres (60 miles) away will turn deadly if Palestinians attempt to damage or cross the fence with Israeli snipers positioned on the other side.
The inauguration that follows Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of the disputed city as Israel's capital also comes at a time of heightened regional tensions.
It follows Trump’s announcement last week that the United States was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and Israeli strikes two days later on dozens of Iranian targets in Syria.
Those strikes came after rocket fire toward Israeli forces in the occupied Golan Heights that Israel blamed on Iran.
The Trump administration has vowed to restart the moribund Middle East peace process but the embassy move has inflamed feelings.

International reaction

The US’ decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been met with widespread criticism.

In the UAE two prominent newspapers slammed the decision. The English-language Gulf News called Monday “a sad day” in a front-page headline over a cartoon by the slain Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali of a crying Palestinian woman behind barbed wire. Al-Ali, a critic of both Israeli and Arab governments, was fatally shot in London in 1987.

And in an editorial, Gulf News said: “This is a day when the United States and the administration of President Donald Trump should hang its head in shame.”

It called Trump's decision "a purely political move to appease his friends on the Manhattan party circuit" and said "Jerusalem's status is non-negotiable."

And The National, an English-language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi, the editor-in-chief Mina al-Oraibi wrote: “Rather than ignoring history and historic rights, courage and immediate intervention is needed to save the heart of the Arab world.”

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US had disregarded “rights and justice,” ignoring the international community.

Erdogan said the move served to “reward” the Israeli government despite it undermining efforts to resolve the decades-long conflict, while it “punished” Palestinians.

“History and humanity will never forgive the injustices done to our Palestinian brothers,” Erdogan said.

Meanwhile Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah dismissed the US decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem as a “worthless” unilateral step.

On Sunday, Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a new message saying America's decision was evidence that "appeasement" has failed Palestinians, as he urged Muslims to carry out jihad against the United States, according to a transcript provided by the SITE monitoring agency.
Monday's inauguration ceremony at 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) will include some 800 guests – though not Trump himself – at what until now had been a US consulate building in Jerusalem.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will lead the Washington delegation that includes Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, both White House aides, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Tight security at opening
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly called Trump’s decision “historic,” welcomed them at a reception on Sunday.
“Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years,” he said.
“It’s been the capital of our state for the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time.”
Sullivan called the embassy “a long overdue recognition of reality.”
Saeb Erekat, Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general, called it a “hostile act against international law.”
It “places the US on the side of the occupying power, Israel, which continues to oppress the Palestinian people and to colonize their lands towards destroying the very possibility of reaching a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” he said in a statement.
Police and the Israeli military planned major security deployments.
Around 1,000 police officers will be positioned around the embassy for the inauguration, said spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Israel's army said it would almost double the number of troops surrounding Gaza and in the occupied West Bank.
It also dropped leaflets warning Gazans to stay away from the fence, including one with a photo of the Champs-Elysees boulevard in Paris and the caption: "Gaza 2025? The choice is in your hands."
Israelis began celebrating on Sunday, as tens of thousands of marched in Jerusalem, some holding American flags, to mark Jerusalem Day.
The annual event is an Israeli celebration of the "reunification" of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
Beyond the disputed nature of Jerusalem, the date of the embassy move is also key.
May 14 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.
The following day, Palestinians mark the "Nakba", or catastrophe, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.
Palestinian protests are planned on both days.

Protests ongoing
There have already been weeks of protests and clashes along the Gaza border, with 54 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire there since March 30.
No Israelis have been wounded and the military has faced criticism over the use of live fire.
Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, attacks and damage to the border fence, while accusing Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence
Jerusalem's status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
In the decades since 1967, international consensus has been that the city's status must be negotiated between the two sides, but Trump broke with that to global outrage.
He has argued that it helps make peace possible by taking Jerusalem "off the table", but many have pointed out he has not announced any concessions in return from Israel.
Trump's initial decision led to a series of protests in various Middle Eastern and Muslim countries.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday insisted the US was "hard at work" on the peace process, which he declared was "most decidedly not dead".


Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

Updated 24 April 2019
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Kosovan women returned from Syria face house arrest

  • Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country
  • The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation

PRISTINA: Kosovo prosecutors have requested the house arrest of 16 women repatriated from Syria, saying they are suspected of joining or taking part as foreign fighters there.

The women appeared on Wednesday in court in Pristina, a day after 10 other women were put under house arrest. None have been charged with a crime.

Four alleged militants, all men, were arrested the moment they were brought to the country.

The women and children were sent to the Foreign Detention Centre in the outskirts of Pristina but were freed to go home after 72 hours.

Ten women were seen entering Pristina Basic Court in a police escort on Tuesday. The court said in a statement later that they had been placed under house arrest on charges of joining foreign armed groups and terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2019.

The state prosecution said all 32 repatriated women are under investigation and more of them are expected to appear in front of judges on Wednesday. The prosecution has yet to file charges.

After the collapse of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return to their home countries.

Kosovo's population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but the country is largely secular in outlook. More than 300 of its citizens travelled to Syria since 2012 and 70 men who fought alongside militant groups were killed.

Police said 30 Kosovan fighters, 49 women and eight children remain in the conflict zones. The government said it plans to bring back those who are still there.

International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

On Saturday, 110 Kosovar citizens — the four alleged foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children — were returned to Kosovo with assistance from the United States, the first such move for a European country.

Authorities say there are still 87 Kosovar citizens in Syria.