Israel strikes kill two in Gaza as Trump rage simmers

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Retaliatory Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed two Hamas militants on Saturday, as unrest simmered across the Palestinian territories over US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

A total of four people have now been killed and dozens wounded since Trump announced his deeply controversial decision which drew criticism from every other member of the UN Security Council at an emergency meeting on Friday.

There were fresh clashes on Saturday as Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank hurled stones at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds.

In Gaza, mourners vented their anger at the funeral of one of two people killed by Israeli troops during clashes at the border fence on Friday.

There have been fears of a much larger escalation of violence after Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a new Palestinian intifada or uprising and analysts have been anxiously watching what happens next.

Dozens of protesters were wounded by rubber bullets or live fire in clashes in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem that followed the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

Tens of thousands also protested in Muslim and Arab countries, including Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia.

Saturday's pre-dawn air strike on a base of Hamas's military wing in Nusseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, was one of several, the Israeli military said.

It followed three rocket attacks Friday night from Gaza into southern Israel.

"Today... in response to the rockets fired at southern Israeli communities throughout yesterday, Israel air force aircraft targeted four facilities belonging to the Hamas terror organisation in the Gaza Strip," the army said.

It said the targets were "two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, in each target, several components were hit," it added.

The Hamas health ministry in Gaza said the two dead men were members of its armed wing, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

On Friday night, a rocket hit the southern Israeli city of Sderot although Israeli public radio said it did not explode and did not cause any casualties.

The Israeli military said that its Iron Dome air defence system intercepted an earlier rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave.

It said it later detected a second missile launch, but had not found evidence that it had reached Israeli territory.

The military retaliated on Friday night with air strikes on what it said were two targets and the Gaza health ministry said 14 people were wounded, among them women and children.

A previously unknown Salafist group calling itself the Salahedin Brigades claimed responsibility for one of the attacks.

But the Israeli army said it held Hamas responsible for all "hostile activity" originating from the territory under its control.

- US isolated -

Trump's decision drew lavish praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but has sparked a worldwide diplomatic backlash.

Five European countries on the UN Security Council insisted the new US policy was not consistent with past resolutions, including one that declares east Jerusalem to be Israeli-occupied.

The meeting was requested by eight of the 15 members of the council but was largely symbolic as no vote on a resolution was planned because the US wields veto power.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the international concern.

The Israeli army said around 4,500 Palestinians "participated in violent riots" along the Gaza-Israel border.

It said that troops shot at "dozens" of what it said were ringleaders of the disturbances.

In the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians took part in "violent riots" throughout the territory, with 28 arrested and about 65 wounded, the army said.

Trump said his defiant move -- making good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge -- marked the start of a "new approach" to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But many analysts question how a balanced agreement can be reached by granting such a major Israeli demand before negotiations have even started.

Israel has long claimed all of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians see the annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

Its status is the most sensitive issue in the decades-long conflict.