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Palestinians say this would destroy hopes of tying together their communities across East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of their country.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, a cauldron of tension between Palestinians and Israeli settlers, dozens of school-age Palestinian children wore Obama masks to protest at his visit and marched through the streets.
Israeli forces arrested several of the demonstrators who were marching through Shuhada Street, the city’s Palestinian commercial hub until Israel unilaterally closed it in 1994.
“We say to Obama, visiting occupied Palestine is a terrible idea. If you want peace for two states, seek justice for us,” said Jamal Jafar, an activist involved in Wednesday’s protest.
Palestinian activists have repeatedly established tent camps in areas close to Israeli settlements in recent months in a bid to throw a spotlight on unhindered Jewish construction.
All the sites were subsequently demolished by Israeli forces, who say they present a security risk and lack building permits. A handful of Israeli soldiers gathered on the fringes of Wednesday’s camp, but did not try to dislodge it.
Slightly angrier protests against Obama’s visit flared in the Gaza Strip, a Mediterranean enclave bordering Israel and Egypt from which Israel withdrew settlers in 2005.
Demonstrators set fire to posters of Obama and to U.S. flags, saying the president’s trip would make no difference to Palestinian aspirations.
“Palestinian blood is on your hands Obama” read one banner. Another said: “Obama, the Hitler of the 21st century.”
Kayed Al-Ghoul, a senior leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said all Palestinian factions agreed that Obama’s arrival would only solely Israel’s purposes.
“At this time, the visit aims to support the newly formed Israeli government and put pressure on the Palestinian leadership to return to bilateral talks that have proven to be a failure,” he said.