JERICHO: Palestinians wave flags during a rally on Monday to protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. —AFP

JERICHO: Thousands of Palestinians on Monday demonstrated against US President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East that includes Israel’s annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. The protest in Jericho, in the south of the Jordan Valley, came in response to a call by Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, AFP reporters said.

It was the largest rally of its kind since Trump in January unveiled his controversial plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which gives Israel a green light to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce as soon as July 1 his strategy to implement Trump’s plan. The Palestinians have rejected the plan and have been trying to rally international support against it.

“If Israel annexes there won’t be any land left for a Palestinian state,” said protester Mohammed

Ishloon, 47, who came to the demonstration from the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp outside Jericho. “We will not let Israel steal our lands,” added demonstrator Kamal Said.

Israel’s annexation plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state, but on reduced territory and without meeting the key Palestinian demand of having its capital in east Jerusalem. Protesters in Jericho held up signs that said “Palestine is not for sale” and “No Palestinian state without the Jordan Valley”.

The UN’s special Middle East envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, joined the protest and criticized Israel’s US-backed annexation plan, saying it could “kill” peace and Palestinian statehood. “The UN believes annexation is against international law,” Mladenov said. “If it happens it might kill the very idea that peace and statehood for the Palestinian people can be achieved through negotiations,” he added.

Mladenov urged the Palestinians to oppose the Israeli plan by peaceful means. “People of Palestine do not despair... do not stray away from the path of non-violence,” Mladenov said. “You’re not renting a home, this is your home. Do not lose sight of the goal of  a free Palestinian state... next to Israel,” he added.

The West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967, is home to 450,000 Israeli settlers and 2.7 million Palestinians. Israel controls all access to the territory where Abbas’s government is based. Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has warned if could review its ties with the Jewish state if it goes with annexation and other Arab countries have voiced opposition to the plan. European Union countries have also voiced concern over any unilateral move by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory. On Monday, Chinese, Russian, European Union and Japanese diplomats also took part in the protest, AFP reporters said. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told AFP that a “large international coalition” including Arab, African and European countries back the Palestinians against