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Palestinians, settlers mobilise against Trump peace plan


AFP Ramallah
Palestinians launched protests Tuesday against US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, hours before it was to be unveiled in Washington.
Thousands demonstrated in Gaza, burning pictures of Trump and the American flag, while further rallies were planned for the coming days.
Details of the initiative remained under wraps, but the Palestinians fear it will heavily favour Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to attend the White House event.
Jewish settlers, for their part, also raised concern, fearing the initiative would support the formation of a Palestinian state.
In a rare event, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah were set to meet in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss a response to Trump.
"We invited the Hamas movement to attend the emergency meeting of the leadership and they will take part," said senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed.
The Islamist rulers of Gaza have been at odds with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement for years, with Hamas rarely taking part in meetings of the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership.
Trump was due to release his plan, in preparation since 2017, at the White House together with his close ally Netanyahu, who is battling corruption charges which he denies and campaigning for March 2 elections.
The Palestinians, who accuse Trump of pro-Israel bias, were not taking part in the US event, despite assurances from Trump that the plan might "have a chance." "It's very good for them, in fact it's overly good for them," the president told reporters on Monday.
"We think we will have ultimately the support of the Palestinians." But the Palestinians have urged world powers to reject Trump's proposal, predicting it would amount to a violation of international law.
Trump's administration has already recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Jewish state captured from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and stopped referring to the West Bank as "occupied" territory.
It also no longer considers Israeli settlements there as inconsistent with international law, and most analysts expect Trump's peace proposal to reaffirm his administration's positions.
The plan also may give Israel the green light from Washington to annex the Jordan Valley, a strategic area along the border with Jordan that constitutes around 30 percent of the West Bank.
The Israeli army announced Tuesday it was beefing up forces in the area.
"The army and forces on the ground are ready for any scenario," Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said after conducting an assessment of the West Bank with military commanders.
"We're facing decisive days of defining borders and implementing sovereignty," he added.
"Palestinian threats won't deter us."

The Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Jewish settlers living in the West Bank, had initially been upbeat about Trump's proposals.
But council leaders then said they had been briefed by US officials on the details, leaving them "very concerned".
"We can't agree to a plan that includes forming a Palestinian state, which will constitute a threat to Israel and a great danger to the future," said council head David Elhayani.
Israeli Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Yemina union stressed in an interview with army radio that his party "won't under any conditions agree to recognition, whether explicit or implicit, of a Palestinian state."

The release of the plan comes as Trump faces impeachment hearings over abuse of office.
Netanyahu is facing imminent trial proceedings, after dropping his request for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges in a surprise move Tuesday.

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First Published: Jan 28 2020 | 8:00 PM IST

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