The Associated PressGAZA CITY (AP) — In a jarring contrast, Israeli forces shot and killed at least 58 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,700 during mass protests Monday along the Gaza border, while just a few miles away Israel and the United States held a festive inauguration ceremony for the new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
It was by far the deadliest day of cross-border violence since a devastating 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and further dimmed the already bleak prospects for President Donald Trump’s hoped-for peace plan.
Throughout the day, Gaza protesters set tires ablaze, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. The Israeli military, which has come under international criticism for using excessive force against unarmed protesters, said Hamas tried to carry out bombing and shooting attacks under the cover of the protests and released video of protesters ripping away parts of the barbed-wire border fence.
Monday’s protests culminated more than a month of weekly demonstrations aimed at breaking a crippling Israeli-Egyptian border blockade. But the U.S. Embassy move, bitterly opposed by the Palestinians, added further fuel.
There was barely any mention of the Gaza violence at Monday’s lavish inauguration ceremony for the new embassy, an upgraded consular building located just 80 kilometers away. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials joined a U.S. delegation of Trump administration officials and Republican and evangelical Christian supporters.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and chief Mideast adviser, headlined the U.S. delegation with his wife and fellow White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and four Republican senators. Republican superdonor Sheldon Adelson was also present, and evangelical pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee delivered blessings.
“A great day for Israel!” Trump tweeted earlier Monday.
In a videotaped address, Trump said the embassy move, a key campaign promise, recognizes the “plain reality” that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Yet he added the United States “remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement.”
But Monday’s steadily climbing death toll and wall-to-wall condemnation of the embassy move in the Arab world raised new doubts about Trump’s ambitions to broker what he called the “deal of the century.” More than a year after taking office, Trump’s Mideast team has yet to produce a long-promised peace plan.
Trump says recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital acknowledges the reality that Israel’s government is located there as well as the ancient Jewish connection to the city. He insists the decision has no impact on future negotiations on the city’s final borders.Speech