Leaders across the Middle East warned today that President Donald Trump's announcement that the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital would inflame Muslim feelings worldwide.
A Turkish government spokesman said that the move will plunge the region and the world into 'a fire with no end in sight'.
Criticism poured in from Tehran and Ankara to war-ravaged Syria and Pope Francis, reflecting the anxiety ahead of today's expected announcement, which upends decades of US policy.
In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move.
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In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move. Pictured: Trump making the speech today
More opprobrium: Turkey's president Recey Tayyip Erdogan, who met King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday, had called the move on Jerusalem a 'red line'. His spokesman on Wednesday said it was a 'grave mistake that will virtually eliminate the fragile Middle East peace process'.
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the U.S. intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul
Anger: A man in Istanbul screams in the street after Trump announced the US would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital
'I think it's long overdue. Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn't do it,' Trump said at a cabinet meeting ahead of his announcement.
But Pope Francis voiced 'deep concern' over Trump's decision, and called for all to honour United Nations resolutions on the city, which is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
'Declaring Jerusalem a capital is disregarding history and the truths in the region, it is a big injustice/cruelty, shortsightedness, foolishness/madness, it is plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight,' Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag said on Twitter.
'I call on everyone to act logically, respect the agreements they signed and behave reasonably, avoid risking world peace for domestic politics or other reasons,' he said.
Hundreds of Palestinians, meanwhile, burned US and Israeli flags as well as pictures of Trump in the Gaza Strip, while relatively small clashes erupted near the West Bank city of Hebron and a refugee camp near Bethlehem.
Demonstrators chanted 'Death to America', 'Death to Israel' and 'Down with Trump' during the protests.
Palestinian leaders have warned the move could have dangerous consequences, calling it a 'kiss of death' to the two-state solution.
An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man holds a shofar (ram's horn) with the golden Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine behind
Palestinians burn posters depicting Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinians burn Israeli and US flags and posters of US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip,
In flames: In Gaza, Palestinians burned the U.S. and Israeli flags as Trump's announcement later on Wednesday was revealed
Israeli border police patrol the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday ahead of Trump's announcement
'He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel,' Manuel Hassassian, the chief Palestinian representative to Britain, told BBC radio.
The announcement brought warnings from leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere that this move could cause violent protests and complicate peace efforts.
Anticipating protests, US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the plans were a sign of US 'incompetence and failure', while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was 'no place for new adventurism by global oppressors', according to Mizan, the news site for the Iranian judiciary.
Iran has long supported a number of Palestinian militant groups opposed to Israel.
Islamist terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah have in the past tried to exploit Muslim sensitivities over Jerusalem to stoke anti-Israel and anti-U.S. sentiment.
'Our Palestinian people everywhere will not allow this conspiracy to pass, and their options are open in defending their land and their sacred places,' said Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.
Palestinians burned a poster of Trump during a protest in Bethlehem, West Bank, on Tuesday in anticipation of the announcement
A woman chants slogans during a sit-in in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon
A child holds a Palestinian flag as he chants slogans during a sit-in in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp, in Beirut, Lebanon
Palestinian children hold Palestine flags and pictures of Jerusalem during a protest in Gaza city on Tuesday
A range of world leaders issued further warnings.
Germany and France warned its citizens in Israel and the Palestinian Territories of the risk of unrest.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Mr Trump in a phone call on Monday that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations on a two-state solution for the Middle East.
'The French President expressed his concern over the possibility that the United States would unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,' the statement said, after Macron and Trump spoke over the phone.
'Mr Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that the question of Jerusalem's status had to be dealt with in the framework of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, with the aim in particular to establish two countries, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security side by side with Jerusalem as capital.'
In the UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she would challenge her country's closest ally.
'I'm intending to speak to President Trump about this matter,' May told MPs. 'Our position has not changed, it has been a long standing one and it is also a very clear one.
'It is that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinian states.'
Contested city: Jerusalem is the holiest city of three religions and until now, never recognized by the U.S. or most other countries as Israel's capital. Trump's move upends what had long been U.S. policy, that recognition would be part of the peace process
In the UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she would challenge the country's closest ally. She urged that Jerusalem should be a shared capital
British foreign minister Boris Johnson, speaking as he arrived for a NATO meeting in Brussels, expressed concern 'because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement
British foreign minister Boris Johnson, speaking as he arrived for a NATO meeting in Brussels, expressed concern 'because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement'.
China warned the plan could fuel tensions in the region and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said 'Muslims must stand united against this major plot.'
Russia, now a key Mideast player, expressed concern about a 'possible deterioration.'
Two leading Lebanese newspapers published front-page rebukes of Trump.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul on December 13 'to display joint action among Islamic countries' over Jerusalem.
In Brussels Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to dampen down the reaction.
'The president is very committed to the Middle East peace process,' Tillerson told reporters at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from commenting on the issue on Wednesday in his first speech since Trump's plan was confirmed.
As well as Netanyahu, Trump spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah and Saudi King Salman to inform them of his decision.
Jordan and the Palestinians also called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, with a diplomatic source saying it was likely to be convened on Saturday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from commenting on the issue on Wednesday in his first speech since Trump's plan was confirmed
'That they claim they want to announce [Jerusalem] as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,' Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said
The Jordanian king 'affirmed that the decision will have serious implications that will undermine efforts to resume the peace process and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike,' said a statement from his office.
Abbas warned Trump of the 'dangerous consequences' that moving the embassy would have for peace efforts and regional stability, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
But Trump assured Abbas that he remained committed to facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, one U.S. official said.
Although winter rains dampened protests called for East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip, few doubted fresh bloodshed now loomed.
Israeli security forces braced for possible unrest but police said the situation in Jerusalem was calm for now.
That could quickly change, given the religious passions that swirl around the Old City, where Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine, abuts the Western Wall prayer plaza, a vestige of two ancient Jewish temples.THE WORLD REACTS TO TRUMP'S MOVE
'I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts.' - Pope Francis
'Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians - a negotiated settlement that we want to see. We have no plans ourselves to move our embassy.' - Boris Johnson, British Foreign Secretary
'Our historical national identity is receiving important expressions every day.' - Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister
'He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians, that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel.' - Manuel Hassassian, chief Palestinian representative to Britain
'That they claim they want to announce [Jerusalem] as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,' - Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
Palestinians mounted two uprisings, or intifadas, against Israeli occupation from 1987 to 1993 then from 2000 to 2005, the latter ignited by a visit by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the shrine area, known to Jews as Temple Mount.
Violent confrontations also took place in July this year after Israel installed metal detectors at the entrance to the Al Aqsa compound. Four Palestinians and three Israelis were killed, as well as two policemen shot dead by gunmen.
Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, US officials said Tuesday.
The mere consideration of Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed US security warning on Tuesday.
America's consulate in Jerusalem ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.
The US State Department issued a cable to all its diplomatic posts worldwide on Wednesday asking its officials to defer non-essential travel to Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank until December 20 according to a copy of the cable seen by Reuters.
'Embassy Tel Aviv and Consulate General Jerusalem request that all non-essential visitors defer their travel to Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank from December 4-December 20, 2017,' said the cable, which did not specify a reason for the request.
It remains unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by US law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.
The officials said numerous logistical and security details, as well as site determination and construction, will need to be finalized first.
Because of those issues, the embassy is not likely to move for at least three or four years, presuming there is no future change in US policy.
Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly promised to move the U.S. embassy.
However, U.S. leaders have routinely and unceremoniously delayed such a move since President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1995 stipulating that the United States must relocate its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem unless the commander in chief issues a waiver on national security grounds.WHY IS JERUSALEM CONTESTED?
Jerusalem has been a contested site for centuries, and today three major world religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – lay claim to various holy sites and monuments there.
Crucially, Israel calls it its capital, but the Palestinians say the east of the city is their capital.
The establishment in 1948 of the state of Israel included its declaration of Jerusalem as the capital.
But the war which followed left the city split between west and east along religious lines.
For the two-thirds of Jerusalem residents who are Jews, they live in the world's holiest city, the capital of the original Israelite Kingdom of Judah and the former location of ancient Jewish temples. The Western Wall, a site where Jews make pilgrimages to pray, is nearby.
Israeli soldiers after capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967. Israel later annexed the area and declared it part of its capital - something the international community refuses to recognize
Muslims, who comprise nearly all the rest, consider the walled Old City in Jerusalem sacred too. What Jews call the Temple Mount is known in Islam as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). It contains the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Jordan controlled the site until Israelis captured it during the Six-Day War in 1967.
Christians are only about 2 per cent of Jerusalem's population, but they see the city as the site of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection from the dead.
Israelis consider Jerusalem – all of it – to be their 'eternal capital.'
Some Palestinians want their own sovereign nation with East Jerusalem as its capital, and have made that a condition of pursuing a 'two-state solution' to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel's Knesset passed a law in 1980 officially annexing East Jerusalem, but no other nation has ever recognized it as legal.
Most countries avoid the issue by having embassies in Tel Aviv which is Israel's largest city and economic capital.