BEIRUT — Lebanese security forces clashed Sunday with demonstrators near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut as hundreds protested President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
The Lebanese army fired water cannons and tear gas as youths hurled stones and burned effigies of Trump. Hundreds attended the Sunday morning protest on the edge of Beirut, many wrapped in Palestinian scarves and flags.
Injured demonstrators were carried away from the front line of the clashes, which took place less than a mile from the highly secured embassy compound. The Health Ministry later said eight people had been hospitalized and 43 people treated at the scene.
Lebanon is home to more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom fled modern-day Israel and the West Bank during the wars of 1948 and 1967. The Lebanese government has never formally recognized their status as refugees, and Palestinians are barred from dozens of professions.
The White House’s Jerusalem announcement on Wednesday triggered widespread protests, with tens of thousands across the region venting their anger.
In Jerusalem itself, violence has been limited to small confrontations between protesters and Israeli security forces. The larger demonstrations and clashes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza had largely died out by Sunday, although skirmishes between protesters and security forces were reported in Ramallah and near Hebron in the West Bank.
But predictions of explosive violence across the region have not come true, and traditional allies of the Palestinians have offered little concrete support. Hezbollah — the Lebanese militia movement founded in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon — has condemned Trump’s decision, although its first mass rally will not take place until Tuesday.
Arab foreign ministers on Sunday demanded that the United States rescind Trump’s decision, calling it a violation of international law and a “grave” development that puts Washington on the same side as the “occupation.” But a resolution they put forward was short on concrete actions while condemning Trump’s decision. The group also called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt the resolution. However, Washington is expected to veto any such measure.
“We have taken a political decision not meant to reflect [what is going on in] the streets. Political work is responsible work,” Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said at a news conference. “Jerusalem has been occupied for 50 years. This is an extended battle, a battle that will be escalated.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has often sought to position himself as a leader of the Islamic world, on Sunday described Israel as a “terror state.”
“We won’t leave Jerusalem to the mercy of a child-murdering country,” Erdogan said, accusing Israel of having no values other than “occupation and plunder.” There were, however, no indications that Turkey would sever its diplomatic relations with the country.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said Trump’s decision means an end to the historic role the United States has played as a broker of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and his aides have indicated Abbas will not meet Vice President Pence as planned when he visits the region next week.
“It’s unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region,” Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence, said in a statement. “But the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan.”
U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner have been tasked with putting together a peace plan, expected to be unveiled next year.
Trump’s announcement leaves Abbas hamstrung. Throughout his presidency, Abbas has attempted to convince skeptical Palestinians that negotiations rather than violence are the way to achieve independence. After more than a decade in power, however, he has nothing to show for such a strategy, with the Jerusalem decision another blow. Analysts said Trump’s move has further undermined a weak Abbas, and a meeting with Pence at this time would have been deeply unpopular with Palestinians.
Standing at the far edge of Sunday’s protest in Beirut, Faraj Shahin, a Palestinian, described the Middle East’s leaders as “traitors” who had sold out her countrymen.
“Arab leaders sold al-Aqsa for dollars. Shame on them,” she said, in reference to al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam’s holiest shrines.
With his face buried in a scarf to shield his eyes from the acrid tear gas, an 18-year-old protester described the small-scale clashes Sunday as an attempt to “liberate” al-Aqsa from Israel.
Hours later, it was all over. Video footage from the aftermath showed street cleaners sweeping the area, wiping clean the soot left by a dumpster truck the protesters set alight.
Loveday Morris in Jerusalem and James McAuley in Paris contributed to this report.