Hamas Vows to 'Defend Jerusalem,' Join Forces with Abbas Against U.S.

Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, Head of Palestinian General Intelligence Majid Faraj, Head of the Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and an Egyptian mediator hold their hands up during a unity meeting in Gaza City on Oct. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Prime Minister Office)

WASHINGTON — The State Department froze travel for diplomatic personnel to the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City as Palestinians declared three days of rage in response to President Trump’s expected announcement Wednesday that the U.S. Embassy will be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“With widespread calls for demonstrations beginning December 6 in Jerusalem and the West Bank, U.S. government employees and their family members are not permitted until further notice to conduct personal travel in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank, to include Bethlehem and Jericho. Official travel by U.S. government employees in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank is permitted only to conduct essential travel and with additional security measures,” said the security notice from the U.S. Embassy.

“United States citizens should avoid areas where crowds have gathered and where there is increased police and/or military presence,” the notice added. “We recommend that U.S. citizens take into consideration these restrictions and the additional guidance contained in the Department of State’s travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza when making decisions regarding their travel.”

Trump, who is scheduled to give a statement on Jerusalem at 1 p.m. Wednesday from the White House, was supposed to decide by Friday whether to move the embassy or issue another six-month waiver. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 requires that the president move the embassy to Jerusalem, but each president has invoked the law’s national security waiver every six months since — including Trump’s waiver in June.

Trump called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Saudi King Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi today to discuss “potential decisions regarding Jerusalem,” the White House said. Each of the Arab leaders issued statements afterward decrying a planned move.

“The president reaffirmed his commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the importance of supporting those talks,” the White House said. “He underscored the importance of bilateral cooperation with each partner to advance peace efforts throughout the region.”

In the Saudi version of the call, King Salman told Trump “that any U.S. declaration on the status of Al-Quds before reaching a final settlement would harm peace negotiation process and escalate tension in the region.”

The king “reiterated that such a dangerous step of relocation or recognition of Al-Quds as the capital of Israel would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world, as per its lofty status to them and as it is the cradle of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the first direction they were facing in their daily prayers,” the official Saudi Press Agency added.

Hamas said leader Ismail Haniyeh had been calling regional leaders in advance of Trump’s decision on Sunday, urging the Arab League to hold an emergency meeting on the news. Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said today an embassy move would be a “dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the region.

Haniyeh “warned that this step could be the onset of a critical turning point in the region,” Hamas said, and “added that the Palestinians will defend Jerusalem, their land and rights.”

Hamas said Abbas and Haniyeh spoke about the need to be unified in standing up to the United States. They said both leaders are backing the “days of rage” demonstration beginning Wednesday, and also discussed “the need to mobilize all media effort” toward their cause.

“Any US step taken in Jerusalem is illegal as it is under Israeli Occupation,” Hamas tweeted.

Haartez reported that the Israeli Defense Forces have been preparing for the Palestinian demonstrations, expecting most of the action to be centered around embassies and consulates along with city centers. Security reinforcements have been called in for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Extra patrols will also be around Jerusalem, where authorities fear terrorist attacks.