U.S. embassies in Middle East closed following protests


JERUSALEM, AP

The United States announced Thursday its diplomatic missions in the Middle East would be closed to the public for several days due to mounting Arab protests linked to Israeli Palestinian violence.

Citing anti-American demonstrations and the “potential for additional demonstrations against U.S. facilities,” the U.S. State Department ordered all of its missions in the Middle East shut until next week. Most will be closed through Sunday, while in Israel the embassy and consulates will be closed through Monday, which is a Jewish holiday.

About 40 Palestinian women and children protested Thursday outside the U.S. Consulate in east Jerusalem before dispersing peacefully, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Rubi said.

Larry Schwartz, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, confirmed the closure of the consular sections of U.S. operations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The security announcement came after two days of anti-Israeli demonstrations in the Middle East, some of them directed at U.S. facilities.

Some 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Tehran, Iran on Thursday to protest the deaths of Palestinians in clashes with Israeli security forces.

About 1,000 university students pelted the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, with stones, branches and bags of rubbish on Wednesday. In Jordan, demonstrators shouted anti-Israeli slogans.

And in Cairo, Egypt, students burned an Israeli flag and smashed windows of a British-owned supermarket, claiming the owner was Jewish.

The United States and British governments also issued travel advisories this week, warning their nationals not to go to the Gaza Strip, West Bank or east Jerusalem, areas that have all been involved in the recent confrontations.

A week of Israeli-Palestinian clashes has left 65 dead and approximately 1,800 wounded, the vast majority Palestinian.