Dozens killed as Palestinians clash with Israeli troops on Gaza border
At least 52 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops Monday, casting a pall on the inauguration of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem – and marking the deadliest violence since the 2014 Gaza cross-border war, officials said.
In a display of fury fueled by the embassy’s move from Tel Aviv, protesters set tires ablaze, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli soldiers across the border.
More than 2,200 were injured, many critically, the Israeli Haaretz reported, citing Palestinian officials.
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, placed the blame for the bloodshed squarely on the Palestinians.
“As 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,” he said at the embassy ceremony on the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state’s founding.
The 50,000-strong protest was the culmination of a campaign — led by Hamas and fueled by despair among Gaza’s 2 million residents — to break the decade-old blockade of the territory.
The march also was directed at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, which Trump last year recognized as the Israeli capital – to the outrage of Palestinians seeking East Jerusalem as a future capital.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure, said the border demonstrations against Israel would continue “until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved.”
“Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem will be a disaster on the American administration and a black day in the history of the American people because they are partners with the occupation and its aggression against the Palestinian people,” he said.
The Israel Defense Forces said its troops shot and killed three Palestinians who were trying to plant a bomb as protesters tried to break through the border fence.
In the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, 31-year-old Bilal Fasayfes boarded a free bus to the border with his wife and two children.
“If half the people die we won’t care,” he told Agence France-Presse. “We will keep going so the other half can live with dignity.”
Muataz al-Najjar, 18, who was wounded four times in the last seven weeks, joined demonstrators on the “Great March of Return.”
“We will return and the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv will be prevented,” he said.
The IDF accused Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas of leading a “terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people” – while the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of carrying out a “terrible massacre,” according to AFP.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the relocation of the embassy were “blatant violations of international law.”
The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation said it considers the move to be an “illegal decision” and “an attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people.”
Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Israel to respect the “principle of proportionality in the use of force.”
Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem reverses decades of US policy of keeping it in Tel Aviv pending progress in peace efforts. Those talks have been frozen since 2014.
Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name, told Reuters: “Many may get martyred today, so many, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end.”
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the army had bolstered its front-line forces along the border and set up additional “layers” of security in and around neighboring communities to defend Israeli civilians.
He said there already had been several “significant attempts” to break through the fence.
“Even if the fence is breached, we will be able to protect Israeli civilians from attempts to massacre or kidnap or kill them,” he said.
In one of the border areas east of Gaza City, Mohammed Hamami, 40, joined a crowd of hundreds of protesters, along with his mother and five children.
“Today we are here to send a message to Israel and its allies that we will never give up on our land,” he said. “We will cross the border and impose new realities like the reality Trump imposed in Jerusalem.”
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut ties with the Trump administration and declared it unfit to be the sole mediator in peace talks.
Senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat slammed the Trump administration Monday, saying the president had violated a promise to hold off on moving the embassy to give peace talks a chance and that his administration is “based on lies.”
Erekat said Team Trump has “become part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
The protests were expected to culminate Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the “Nakba,” when hundreds of thousands of them were driven out of their homes or fled during Israel’s creation in 1948.
“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.
With Post Wires