Israeli forces have once again clashed with Palestinians demonstrating against the new US policy on Jerusalem al-Quds in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The Israeli soldiers used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the protesters who had gathered outside an Israeli military tower in Bethlehem on Saturday.
Holding Palestinian flags, some of the demonstrators were dressed as Santa Claus.
Bethlehem resident Mohammad al-Lahham said the Santa costumes send a message to Palestinian children “that we are on the path to freedom, to Jerusalem. Papa Noel (Santa Claus) distributes gifts and the occupation distributes bombs today. These are the bombs that the Israeli occupation is distributing today, at Christmas.”
At this time of year, Bethlehem is normally flooded by pilgrims and tourists from across the world as well as local Christians who want to celebrate Christmas Eve at the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ.
Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa said “dozens” of groups had cancelled their planned visits to Bethlehem after Washington’s controversial decision on Jerusalem al-Quds that sparked violence in the occupied territories.
“Of course this created a tension around Jerusalem and this diverted attention from Christmas,” he added.
There have been regular anti-US protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since December 6, when US President Donald Trump declared that Washington recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
The dramatic shift in Washington’s Jerusalem al-Quds policy drew fierce criticism from the international community, including Washington’s Western allies, and triggered protests against the US and Israel worldwide.
On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted by a resounding majority to reject Trump’s Jerusalem al-Quds move.
Israel lays claim to the whole Jerusalem al-Quds, but the international community views the ancient city’s eastern sector as occupied land and the Palestinians consider it their future capital.
Pro-Palestine demo in Germany
Separately on Saturday, scores of pro-Palestinian protesters condemned Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli “capital” in the central German city of Gottingen.
They chanted slogans, waved Palestinian flags and held signs reading, “There is no country called Israel in order [for it] to have a capital.”