52 die as US opens Jerusalem mission

Bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014, We are here to stay: Netanyahu

By TT Bureau in Gaza
  • Published 15.05.18
Ivanka Trump poses in front of the dedication plaque at the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. (Reuters)

Gaza/Jerusalem: Israeli troops shot dead 52 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday as the US opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, a move that has fuelled Palestinian anger and drawn foreign criticism for undermining peace efforts.

It was the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since the Gaza conflict in 2014. Palestinian health ministry officials said 52 protesters were killed and more than 2,200 injured either by live gunfire, tear gas or other means.

The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with Turkey calling it "a massacre".

The Israeli military said it was responding to violence from the protesters to defend Israel's border.

In contrast to the scenes in Gaza, Israeli dignitaries and guests attended a ceremony in Jerusalem to open the US embassy following its relocation from Tel Aviv.

The move fulfilled a pledge by President Donald Trump, who in December recognised the holy city as the Israeli capital. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for "having the courage to keep your promises". "What a glorious day for Israel," Netanyahu said in a speech. "We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay."

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognised internationally, as its "eternal and indivisible capital".

Trump, in a recorded message, said he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

He was represented at the ceremony by his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, U.S. envoy to the Middle East.

Kushner said it was possible for both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to gain more than give in any peace deal. "Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together," he said in a speech.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the US had opened an "American settlement outpost in East Jerusalem". He called the deaths in Gaza a massacre and announced a general strike on Tuesday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in a statement on Monday, accused the US of "blatant violations of international law".

"Choosing a tragic day in Palestinian history (to open the Jerusalem embassy) shows great insensibility and disrespect for the core principles of the peace process," Hamdallah wrote.

The protests are scheduled to culminate on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the " Nakba" or "Catastrophe" when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of them were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting around Israel's creation.

Trump's recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December outraged Palestinians. Reuters