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Dozens of Palestinians dead, thousands injured in Gaza-Israel border clashes
Juris Teivans / Shutterstock.com
Scores of Palestinian rioters were shot dead on Monday by Israeli snipers as some 35,000 protesters, inflamed by the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem as well as bitter memories of the anniversary of Israel’s founding, rioted at the border.
Nearly 2,800 were injured as Israeli soldiers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. It was the bloodiest day in the Israel-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 war between the Jewish state and Hamas.
Israeli snipers kill 60, injure thousands
A U.S. delegation that included Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner joined Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an exuberant ceremony to mark the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. Away from the fanfare, though, a very different scene was unfolding on the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli soldiers fired at Palestinian rioters with sniper rounds and tear gas, killing 60, including an eight-month-old girl who inhaled tear gas, and injuring nearly 2,800.
The embassy opening on Monday poured gasoline on border protests that had already been going on for weeks, as Palestinians agitated for the right of return of refugees to areas now controlled by Israel. Palestinian medical officials say that 109 Gazans have now been killed and 12,300 wounded since the protests began in March. No Israelis have been injured.
Israel said on Tuesday that it had struck Hamas targets in Gaza with warplanes and tanks. Chaos also erupted in the West Bank, where black smoke boiled up from piles of burning tires and Palestinians wielding slingshots clashed with Israeli security forces.
Funerals, quieter protests
What was originally meant to be a major day of protests Tuesday turned out to be a quieter day of grieving as a smaller crowd gathered to bury the protesters killed on Monday. Mourners waved Palestinian flags and called for revenge, shouting, “With souls and blood we redeem you martyrs.”
Some protesters returned to the border fence Tuesday, rolling flaming tires and flying incendiary kites toward the Israeli side. Israel responded with drones dropping tear gas.
A 70-second siren echoed at noon through the West Bank on Tuesday to mark “Nakba”, or catastrophe, the anniversary of the displacement of Palestinians in the aftermath of the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Monday, May 14th is the 70th anniversary of modern Israel’s creation, which added to the jubilation of the Israelis and the bitterness of the Palestinians.
Israel defends sovereignty
Netanyahu defended Israel’s response, saying it was necessary to defend his country against Hamas terrorists who vow to destroy Israel. Israel accuses Hamas of using the protests as a Trojan horse to attack Israel and breach the border with explosive devices. Netanyahu said 24 of the protesters killed had a terrorist background, and said on Twitter:
Every country has the obligation to defend its borders. The Hamas terror organization declares its intention to destroy Israel and send thousands to break through the border fence in order to achieve this aim. We will continue to act firmly in order to defend our sovereignty and our citizens.
The United States joined Israel in blaming Hamas for the border violence, and moved on Monday to block a U.N. statement condemning the killings and calling for an independent investigation. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley praised Israel’s “restraint.” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told NBC:
We believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action that is leading to these deaths. The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response. And as the Secretary of State said, Israel has the right to defend itself.
Among western powers, French president Emmanuel Macron was one of the few to condemn Israel. The UN also condemned the attacks.
Turkey ordered the Israeli ambassador to Ankara to leave Tuesday, and withdrew its ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Washington, saying the United States had lost all credibility as a peaceful negotiator. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said that the United States is committed to peace, but critics say that their decision leaves Palestine with few concessions from its neighbor.
Bitter struggle for Jerusalem
Monday marked the day the United States finally made good on its December promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. The decision broke with decades of diplomatic precedent which held that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two countries, provoking protests in Arab nations and Palestine.
At the embassy dedication, Netanyahu called Monday a “glorious day” and said that U.S.-Israel relations have never been better. In a video aired at the dedication ceremony, Trump said that the embassy move was “a long time coming” and that the United States remained committed to negotiating peace in the region. Kushner said it was proof that Trump delivers on his promises.
Israel sees the whole city as its eternal capital, but Palestine considers east Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in its 1967 war, a move that was never recognized until Trump’s December acknowledgment.
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