Palestinians expel US team from Bethlehem

Monitoring Desk

BETHLEHEM: Palestinian activists on Tuesday expelled a U.S. delegation vi-siting the West Bank city of Bethlehem in protest of last month’s US recognition of J-erusalem as Israel’s capital, according to a Palestinian official.

Activists intercepted vehicles of a U.S. State Department delegation visiting the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and chanted slogans against U.S. policies toward the Palestinians, said Mohammed Lahham, a Revolutionary Council member of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group.

“Activists told the delegation that they were unwelcome in Bethlehem and expelled them from the city,” he told Anadolu Agency.

There was no comment from U.S. authorities on the move. The Palestinian territories have remained tense since Dec. 6, when U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, triggering a world outcry and protests in the occupied lands.

Since then, at least 19 Palestinians have been martyred in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Muslim scholars highlight Jerusalem at Istanbul meeting: Muslim scholars from around the world met in Istanbul on Tuesday to highlight the religious and historical importance of Jerusalem.

Held under the banner “Jerusalem: A city blessed by revelation”, the two-day event — organized by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) — was attended by 70 Muslim scholars from 20 countries, including Pakistan, Britain, Indonesia and France.

Speaking at the conference, Diyanet Deputy Chairman Se-lim Argun pointed out that J-erusalem had long served as an example of peaceful coexistence. “We can’t just say, ‘Look, we have lived in Jerusalem for centuries in peace under the Muslim administration with Christians and Jews’,” Argun said. “Because today, there are terrorist organizations that accept living together as non-Islamic, and take references from religion, in different parts of the Islamic world,” he added, referring in particular to the Daesh terrorist group. Daesh, Argun said, “opposes coexistence and sees killing non-Muslims as legitimate. This is a distorted understanding”.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Early last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting widespread condemnation and protest from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Speaking at Tuesday’s conference, Mustafa Mohamed Abdel-Rahman Tawil, the head Palestine’s Sharia Court, described Trump’s Jerusalem move as a “crime”.