The Latest: Pro-Palestinian rally gathers near Biden route

The Latest on U.S. President Joe Biden’s trip to the Mideast:

JERUSALEM — About two dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators have gathered in east Jerusalem ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to a local hospital.

The protesters on Friday are holding Palestinian flags and posters of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was killed in May while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.

After two days of nonstop meetings with Israeli leaders, Biden is visiting the Augusta Victoria Hospital, which serves local Palestinians, before heading to Bethlehem to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The demonstration is several hundred meters (yards) from the hospital, with Israeli police standing at a distance outside the building. It was not clear if Biden’s motorcade would pass by the crowd.

Biden is expected to announce over $300 million in assistance for the Palestinians on Friday. While Biden has voiced support for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, there are no plans for any diplomatic initiative to resolve the decades-old conflict.

Friday’s visit marks a tacit acknowledgement of Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and considers the entire city its capital. But its annexation of the eastern sector, home to the city’s most important religious sites, is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

Biden heads to West Bank with little to offer Palestinians

As Biden visits, a look at those targeted in Saudi Arabia

Israeli politics a backdrop to Biden’s visit to the Mideast

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JERUSALEM — Saudi Arabia on Friday opened its airspace to “all air carriers,” signaling the end of its longstanding ban on Israeli flights overflying its territory — a key step toward normalization between the two nations as President Joe Biden visits the region.

In a statement posted to Twitter hours before Biden is set to become the first U.S. leader to fly directly from Israel to the kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said it was announcing “the decision to open the Kingdom’s airspace for all air carriers that meet the requirements of the Authority for overflying.”

The announcement is an incremental step toward the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and builds on the strong but informal ties the erstwhile foes have developed recent years over their shared concerns about Iran’s growing influence in the region.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has allowed flights between Israel and Gulf states to cross through its airspace. In 2020, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly flew to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and last week several Israeli defense reporters visited the kingdom and published news reports about their welcome.

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