As US Opens Embassy in Jerusalem, Palestinians Riot on Gaza Border
At least 52 Palestinian rioters were killed on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Monday, local Hamas-affiliated health officials claimed, as the US prepared to open its embassy in Jerusalem.
Tens of thousands of rioters gathered at the frontier on Monday, some of them approaching the border fence — a line Israeli leaders vowed Palestinians would not be allowed to breach. Black smoke from tires set alight by rioters rose in the air.
Later in the day, Israeli leaders and a US delegation including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, were due to attend the opening of the embassy relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“A great day for Israel,” the American president said in a tweet.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in lockstep with Trump over fulfilling a long-standing US promise to move the embassy to the holy city and over the president’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last week, echoed the sentiment.
“What a moving day for the people of Israel and the State of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.
The Israeli military identified three of the Palestinians killed on the border on Monday as armed terrorists whom it said tried to place explosives near the fence in southern Gaza.
The latest casualties raised the Palestinian death toll to 97 since the Hamas-orchestrated “Great March of Return” riots started six weeks ago.
“The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will act forcefully against any terrorist activity and will operate to prevent attacks against Israelis,” the military said in a statement.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace envoy, said on Twitter that “taking the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal. Rather, it is a necessary condition for it.”
But Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah accused the US of “blatant violations of international law.”
The riots are scheduled to culminate on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the anniversary of the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” — i.e. Israel’s 1948 establishment.
“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.
Many countries say the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a final peace agreement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.
But Guatemala plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Its ambassador visited the new site, in an office building in the western part of the city, on Monday. Paraguay is to follow suit later this month.