Pence ends Israel trip with visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-23 21:29:12|Editor: Zhou Xin
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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on Jan. 23, 2018. (Xinhua/JINI)

JERUSALEM, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Jerusalem's Western Wall on Tuesday, as the Palestinians declared a general strike to protest his pro-Israeli speech at the Israeli parliament on Monday.

It was the first visit to the site by a senior U.S. official since President Donald Trumps recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The holy Jewish site is located in East Jerusalem's Old City, a territory annexed by Israel after the 1967 Middle East war in a move never recognized internationally.

The tour was broadcast live on all Israel's main TV channels and widely hailed by Israeli commentators as a proof of Pence's strong commitment to Israel.

Pence, a devout evangelical Christian, was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and the White House special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, both are practicing Jews.

The official Rabbi of the West Wall led Pence in a tour around the site. They read together a chapter of Psalm and Pence signed the guest book.

The site was completely shut down for visitors during the tour and the police boosted its presence in the Old City for fear of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

The visit to the Western Wall wrapped up Pence's three-day visit to Israel, which was highlighted in an address to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, on Monday. Pence's strong pro-Israeli speech triggered protest by Arab lawmakers, who were forcibly removed from the plenum.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pence laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial after meeting with President Reuven Rivlin in the President's Residency. In the meeting, Pence stressed the White House's support to Israel and reiterated that Washington will no longer certify the nuclear deal with Iran unless the monitoring of possible breaches by Iran would be tightened.

The visit came amidst heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of the White House's Jerusalem statement. The recognition was denounced by the Palestinians as well as the international community.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, and has controlled these territories ever since despite international criticism.

The Palestinians wish to build their future state in these lands, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

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