Israeli troops kill dozens protesting US embassy move to Jerusalem

Israeli troops killed dozens of Palestinians taking part in mass protests on the Gaza border yesterday as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.

Israeli troops killed dozens of Palestinians taking part in mass protests on the Gaza border yesterday as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem.

The US relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv fulfilled a pledge by President Donald Trump, who has recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital, but it has fired Palestinian anger and drawn criticism from many foreign governments as a setback to peace efforts.

At the embassy inauguration ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises.” 

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 son-in-law Jared Kushner, US envoy to the Middle East. 

As the ceremony took place in Jerusalem, Palestinian protests on the Gaza border quickly turned into bloodshed. Israeli gunfire killed 52 Palestinians, the highest toll in a single day since a series of protests demanding the right to return to ancestral homes in Israel began on March 30.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the dead included six children. Ministry officials said more than 2,400 Palestinians were wounded.

France and Britain called on Israel to show restraint and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the events in Gaza.

Turkey accused Israeli security forces of carrying out a massacre and said the US Embassy move had encouraged them.

The non-government international organization Human Rights Watch said the policy of Israeli authorities to fire “irrespective of whether there is an immediate threat to life on Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, caged in for a decade and under occupation for a half century, has resulted in a bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians had streamed to the coastal enclave’s land border, some approaching the Israeli fence — a line Israeli leaders said Palestinians would not be allowed to breach.

Demonstrators, some armed with slingshots, hurled stones at the Israeli security forces, who fired volleys of tear gas and gunfire.

Trump’s recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December outraged Palestinians, who said the US could no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process with Israel.

Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want 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 recognized internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital.”

Many countries say the status of Jerusalem — a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians — should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal. Peace talks aimed a finding a two-state solution to the conflict have been frozen since 2014.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the US move flouted international law.

“France calls on all actors to show responsibility to prevent a new escalation,” Le Drian said in a statement.

In London, the British government said it had no plans to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and it disagreed with the US decision to do so.

Special Reports