The situation continued to remain tense in Gaza before the inauguration of the US Embassy, as the Palestinians were staging protest against American President Donald Trump’s decision to open an Embassy in Jerusalem. The situation deteriorated just before the inauguration on Monday.
For the Israelis, May 14 is a historic day as they commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Jewish nation in 2018. This year, at least 59 Palestinian protesters – including some teenagers – were killed by Israeli fire in Gaza border clashes over the embassy move. Also, more than 2,700 people received serious injuries. However, the US Embassy was inaugurated as per schedule despite the protest.
Opening of the Embassy
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara Netanyahu, senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, US President’s daughter Ivanka Trump, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem. According to sources close to the Trump administration, the decision has been made to ensure regional stability. However, critics claim that Washington was well aware of the fact that such a decision could trigger a fresh tension in West Asia.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered near the Gaza border on Monday morning. Later, some stone-throwing protesters approached the fence, with the Israeli troops positioned on the other side. The Israeli troops fired teargas after the Palestinians tried to cross the border. The Israeli soldiers also responded with rifle fire and drone attacks, making Monday as the bloodiest day since the campaign of demonstrations began seven weeks ago. The protesters also burned tires and shouted anti-Israel slogans.
The Israeli Defence Ministry blasted the Palestinian Hamas movement for encouraging protesters to cross the border. In a statement, the ministry said that the Israeli forces had asked the Palestinians not to stage protests near the border on May 14 through leaflets. However, they ignored the advice and prompted the Israeli soldiers to use ‘lethal force’. Meanwhile, Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Saidam said: “Today is a day of sadness. It’s a manifestation of the power of America and President Trump in upsetting the Palestinian people and the people, who have been awaiting the Independence of Palestine for 70 years.”
Although Israel welcomed President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Palestinians opposed it. In April, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud joined Jordan’s King Abdullah II in condemning the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, stressing the need for a “two-state solution”. The Saudi King also underscored Riyadh’s insistence on the establishment of a Palestinian state “with East Jerusalem as its capital”.
Tension prevailed in Gaza on Tuesday as well, as the Palestinians buried those killed in embassy unrest. People across Palestine also marked May 15 as ‘Nakba Day’ or ‘Day of the Catastrophe’. For the Palestinians, May 15 is an annual day of commemoration of the displacement that preceded and followed the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. It is to be noted that around 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled, and hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed during the 1948 Palestine war.
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