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Middle East Palestine strikes back

General strike held to protest against US Vice-President Mike Pence's visit

PALESTINIAN workers staged a general strike today in protest at US Vice-President Mike Pence visiting occupied east Jerusalem.

Shops, banks, schools, government offices and businesses across the occupied territories were closed as Mr Pence offered prayers at the al-Buraq Wall — or Western Wall — in the Old City.

Israeli occupation forces responded by imposing draconian movement restrictions across the Old City, closing roads to the Palestinian Wadi Rababa and Wadi Hilweh districts.

Palestine’s Wafa news agency said the strike had been called by “national and Islamic forces” — a presumed reference to the ruling Fatah party and Hamas, recently reconciled after a decade of infighting.

Fatah official Jamal Muhiesin told Voice of Palestine radio that it marked “the beginning of our popular peaceful struggle” against President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Mr Pence’s aides claimed that he was making “a personal visit” in the same manner as when Mr Trump visited the wall last year.

But it came a day after the US vice-president addressed the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, referring to the city as “Israel’s capital” and instructing the US embassy to relocate there from Tel Aviv before the end of the year.

That followed Mr Trump’s recognition last month of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital, despite Palestinian hopes that it would be the capital of a future independent state of their own.

A statement issued in Jerusalem by the “national and Islamic forces” called Mr Pence’s visit to the city, which is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, a “desecration of Jerusalem and the holy al-Buraq Wall, the original part of the blessed al-Aqsa mosque,” Wafa reported.

The strike was “an expression of the anger of the Palestinian people and their rejection of all that our city and national project are facing from the occupation gangs and the settlers with American cover,” the statement said.

US policy is “aimed at stealing the history and future of Palestine and our real cause without any regard for international resolutions related to our people, their land and Jerusalem as its capital.”

The statement called for an intensification of popular struggle, including through demonstrations and road barricades, against Israeli occupation forces and settlers bent on annexing east Jerusalem and surrounding areas.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told Voice of Palestine that Mr Pence’s Knesset address was “totally biased” towards Israel.

He said it proved that last week’s vote by the Palestine Liberation Organisation central council to reject the longstanding US role as peace mediator was correct.

He added, according to Wafa, that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had reiterated to a summit of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday that “the US mediation of the peace process or its monopoly over it are no longer acceptable and do not exist any more.”

Mr Abbas told EU ministers that other options needed to be explored, including adding new members to the Middle East Quartet of the US, Russia, the United Nations and EU, a summit to restart the peace process based on international resolutions or action through the UN security council and general assembly.

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