Top US officials insisted Sunday that they could still push forward the troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, despite outrage across the Arab world over the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem, topped with a refusal by Palestinian officials to meet with their US counterparts.
"Tragically, the US administration has chosen to side with Israel's exclusivist claims over a city that has for centuries been sacred to all faiths", the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to the United States said.
USA envoy sees peace hope after Israel embassy move
With American officials looking on, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised President Donald Trump's "bold decision" to move the American Embassy to contested Jerusalem. Other major powers worry that the USA move could now inflame Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank and on the Gaza Strip border, where Israel reinforced troops in anticipation of the embassy opening. It expanded the municipal boundaries into the West Bank, increasing the size of east Jerusalem and annexing it to its capital, a move not recognized by most of the worldwide community.
While security remains tight amid fears of possible violence by Palestinian protestors, US officials said the mood around Jerusalem is celebratory, with "people out in the streets carrying American and Israeli flags", according to one senior White House official who is in Israel for the embassy opening.
"It's been the capital of our state for the past 70 years".
"There continues to be real anger among Palestinians" over Trump's decision, the CBC's Derek Stoffel said from Jerusalem.
The weekend also saw two car-ramming attacks in the the West Bank, with a soldier lightly wounded in one of them. Delegation members include President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, her husband Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "It will remain our capital for all time", he said.
But US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said he believed the Palestinians' position "will change over time".
"The United States government has taken a number of actions to ensure that not only our governmental interests but the American people in that region are secure as well, and we're comfortable we've taken action that reduces that risk", said the top U.S. diplomat.
Thousands of police officers were deployed throughout the Jerusalem districts to thwart any Palestinian protests and riots. Special patrol, border patrol and undercover units have fully coordinated with American security services to make sure the ceremony goes according to plan, he added. The move has sparked strong global condemnation and comes as tensions grow between Israel and Iran.
A 15-year-old teenager who was shot in the head Friday succumbed to his wounds on Saturday evening, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said.
A high-ranking delegation of Gaza's Hamas rulers headed Sunday to Egypt, amid diplomatic efforts aimed at containing Monday's mass rally. The worldwide consensus remains that the status of the Jerusalem should be part of final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.