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A protestor in Gaza carries an injured child
Image: Getty Images/S. Platt

Dozens killed in Gaza as US opens Jerusalem embassy

May 15, 2018

Israeli forces have killed at least 58 Palestinians protesting along the Gaza security fence. Meanwhile, US and Israel celebrated the inauguration of a new US embassy in contested Jerusalem.


Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and live rounds at Palestinian protesters along the Gaza security fence on Monday, killing at least 58 people according to the Gaza health ministry. A total of 2,771 were wounded, including 1,373 by live ammunition, the ministry said.

The clashes erupted as US and Israel held an inaugration ceremony for a new American embassy in contested Jerusalem, which US President Donald Trump described as a "a great day for Israel." 

It was the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war. Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have been holding weekly protests since March 30 demanding the right to return to their former lands in Israel and an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The US embassy move from Tel Aviv has added further fuel to Palestinian anger. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. 

Read more: US embassy in Jerusalem opens, further fracturing a 'fragile city'

Supporters jubilant at opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

The day as it unfolded:

  • Early in the morning, Trump supporters began to gather outside the new US embassy compound in Jerusalem as thousands of police officers patrolled the streets
  • About 40,000 Palestinian demonstrators gathered along several points on the Gaza security fence, where protests have been ongoing for six weeks.
  • Some Palestinians threw stones and Molotov cocktails while burning tires to create black smoke. 
  • Israeli soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition at protesters in what the army said were "standard operating procedures" to prevent a breach of the fence. 
  • Israel said it had a right to defend itself. 
  • As the violence played out in Gaza, in Jerusalem, US and Israeli dignitaries and guests celebrated the opening of the new Jerusalem embassy.
  • Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, told the audience "we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution."

The world reacts

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Israel committed "massacres" and "the US is no longer a mediator in the Middle East." 

Vowing to continue protests, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said:  "We say clearly today to all the world that the peaceful march of our people lured the enemy into shedding more blood."

Germany's foreign office said in a statement: "Israel has the right to defend itself ... However, the principle of proportionality appies."

French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated Germany's concern for the "oppressive humanitarian situation" in Gaza,  adding that he had "warned repeatedly of the repercussions" of moving to embassy to Trump, and condemned the violence in Gaza.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: "Dozens of Palestinians, including children, have been killed and hundreds injured from Israeli fire today, during ongoing mass protests near the Gaza fence. We expect all to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life." 

The United States blamed Hamas for the violence. "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas," White House spokesperson Raj Shah said. 

UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that "those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account." 

Muslim and Arab countries broadly condemned Israeli violence and criticized the US for moving its embassy to Jerusalem. 

Some of the strongest words came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accused Israel of "genocide" and "terror." Turkey also recalled its ambassador from Washington and Israel.

South Africa recalled its ambassador. 


US blocks UN probe

Ahead of a UN Security Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, diplomats said the United States blocked the adoption of a draft statement calling for an independent probe of the deadly Gaza-Israel border violence.

The Palestinian UN envoy wants the Security Council to condemn the killings. 

However, Israel wants the Security Council to condem Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. 

Protests to continue

The US embassy move and Gaza violence puts Trump's still unrevealed Middle East peace plan in question. Palestinians have boycotted meeting with the United States and said Washington can no longer act as an impartial mediator.

Read more: Opinion: An anniversary, an embassy, and the destructive power of Donald Trump

Protests are set to continue on Tuesday as Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of what they call the "Nakba" ("catastrophe") — when 750,000 Palestinians fled or were forced off their land when Israel was created in 1948. Tuesday also marks the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which Friday prayers are likely to turn into further protests. 

cw, es/se (AP, AFP, Reuters,dpa)

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