West Bank protests ramp up as VP Mike Pence's visit to the region approaches

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) —  More than a week after President Donald Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and days before his vice president visits the region, small-scale protests broke out across Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank today.

For the second Friday in a row, Palestinians briefly clashed with Israeli border police in the narrow, walled streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, and in Bethlehem and Ramallah.

After Friday prayers, worshippers chanted “Jerusalem will always be an Arab city,” as they left al Haram al Sharif, or the Temple Mount, after praying at al Aqsa Mosque. There were no age restrictions for Friday prayers, Israeli Police Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld said.

Vice President Mike Pence was expected to be in the region early next week, but his visit has been delayed until Wednesday because of the U.S. Senate tax bill vote, according to his office. He will now fly to Egypt Tuesday to meet with President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, before landing in Tel Aviv Wednesday and visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem Wednesday evening.

He’s expected to speak to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Thursday and dine with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s not expected to meet with any Palestinian leaders, according to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office.

Jerusalem has been fairly quiet this week with intermittent flare-ups but no major protests. Israeli police violently broke up a small sit-in outside of Damascus Gate Thursday night.

The entrance to the Muslim Quarter, on the seam between West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem, continues to be a flashpoint nearly a week after Trump’s announcement.

Exiting the Old City around 6 p.m. Thursday, Palestinians gathered in the amphitheater outside of the Old City gate. Israeli police and border police charged the area, attempting to break up the crowd.

Fistfights broke out, and protesters were dragged away one by one.

Israeli police security measures are in place today in and around the old city of Jerusalem, Rosenfeld, the police superintendent, tweeted today.

If incidents occur, he added, police will respond.

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