US orders government staff to avoid Jerusalem Old City, West Bank

Jerusalem (AFP) –


The United States ordered government employees to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank on Tuesday after calls for protests as speculation mounted over a decision by President Donald Trump on whether to move the embassy.

"With widespread calls for demonstrations beginning December 6 in Jerusalem and the West Bank, US government employees and their family members are not permitted until further notice to conduct personal travel in Jerusalem's Old City and in the West Bank," an advisory from the US State Department said.

"Official travel by US government employees in Jerusalem's Old City and in the West Bank is permitted only to conduct essential travel and with additional security measures."

Trump must this week decide whether to sign a waiver keeping the US embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv or fulfil a campaign promise and move it to Jerusalem -- de facto recognising Israel's claim on the disputed city.

US officials said he would hold off on moving the embassy right away, but may issue a statement reiterating his intent and even go as far as recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinians and much of the rest of the world opposes any such move. Palestinian officials have called for a series of demonstrations in the coming days in response.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel claims the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The city's status is among the most difficult issues in the conflict. US traditional policy has been that its status must be negotiated between the two parties.