Two killed in Gaza blast | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 13, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:00 AM, December 13, 2017

Two killed in Gaza blast

Israel denies air raid claim; clashes, protests continue

Two Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants riding on a motorcycle in Gaza were killed in an explosion on Tuesday which the group implied was caused by an accidental detonation during preparations for an attack.

Israel's military denied accounts by local residents that the militants were killed in an air strike.

Violence along the Israel-Gaza border has flared since US President Donald Trump's recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the Israeli military's demolition on Sunday of a cross-border tunnel it said was dug by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the small coastal enclave.

On Monday, Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted a rocket fired by militants in Gaza. Shortly afterward, Israel responded with tank fire and air strikes targeting positions of Hamas.

Protests across the Middle East and Muslim world have been raging since US President Donald Trump declared the move.

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin warned that Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel risks escalating tension in an already tense region.

Trump's decision and his plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem sparked violence in Jerusalem, with a fifth day of protests in the Middle East.

"Both Russia and Turkey believe that the decision... does not help regulating the situation in the Middle East but instead destabilises the already complicated atmosphere," Putin said during a press conference in Ankara.

"It can derail the Israel-Palestine peace process," he warned after his meeting with Erdogan following lightning visits to Syria and Egypt earlier on Monday.

Erdogan said that he and Putin had taken a similar approach on the issue as he accused Israel of continuing to "add fuel to the flames".

"Israel is using this as an opportunity to further increase the pressure and violence against Palestinians," he added.

Putin earlier in Cairo stressed the importance of "the immediate resumption of Palestinian-Israeli talks over all disputed issues, including the status of Jerusalem".

The Turkish head of state bitterly opposes Trump's decision and has sought to mobilise the Muslim world against it, calling a summit of Islamic countries on December 13 in Istanbul.

Indian activists burn an effigy depicting U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest in New Delhi, India. Photo: AFP, Reuters

Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, said the "struggle" of Muslims would not end until there is an independent Palestinian state.

"They will never be able to clean the blood," he said in a speech in Ankara.

Trump's move has ignited protests across the Islamic world and deadly violence in the Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, Iran's defence minister on Monday said Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will hasten the country's destruction.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

"(Trump's) step will hasten the destruction of the Zionist regime and will double the unity of Muslims," Iran's defence minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said on Monday, according to state media.

The army's chief of staff, General Mohammad Baqeri, said Trump's "foolish move" could be seen as the beginning of a new intifada, or Palestinian uprising.

Iran has long supported a number of anti-Israeli militant groups, including the military wing of Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which the deputy commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, said was "stronger than the Zionist regime."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday stepped up efforts to rally Middle Eastern countries against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which EU foreign ministers meanwhile declined to support.

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