US opens Jerusalem embassy on 'great day for peace' as dozens of Palestinians shot dead
The US has opened its embassy in Jerusalem following the highly-divisive decision by President Donald Trump last December. Pledges of peace during the ceremony came as dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israelis in protests.
"President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history!” said a beaming Benjamin Netanyahu during a passionate speech punctuated by frequent ovations, referring to the decision by “Israel’s greatest ally” to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv.
The Israeli Prime Minister said that Monday, which also marked 70 years since Israel’s foundation, was a “great day for peace,” adding that there can be no resolution to the Middle East conflict without accepting the “truth” of Jerusalem’s status as the capital.
Prior to that US President Donald Trump was also not short of words to praise the event.
“It’s been a long time coming… For many years we have failed to acknowledge the obvious,” said Trump in a recorded message, noting that Jerusalem has been Israel’s historic capital since ancient times, and presently houses its key institutions.
The US delegation was represented by Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman who said that the US merely “extended to Israel the right we extend to any other nation - the right to designate its capital city.”
While the controversy of the decision, which has been criticized by Palestinians and Western nations alike, went unmentioned by those other than Kushner, those inside could have heard the crowd of protesters that gathered next to the embassy, separated from the VIPs by an imposing police cordon.
But while protests remained peaceful inside the Jewish-controlled parts of the city, predictions that the move, which Palestinians consider a violation of the peace process, would spark a wave of unrest were vindicated.
The IDF said that over 35,000 Palestinians protesters staged demonstrations in 12 different locations, with clashes recorded mostly in Gaza, where demonstrators besieged a key checkpoint used to regulate the passage of goods into the region.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health says that Israel used disproportionate force to put down the riots. It has released the names of 55 Palestinians, who it says were gunned down by Israeli soldiers. Additionally, more than 2,700 people have been wounded.
This would represent the deadliest day for Palestinians since the war against Gaza in 2014. Israel has not released its own casualty estimates, but says it is trying to minimize casualties, but will not allow any incursions into its territory by protesters.
Palestinian officials and activists on the ground accused Israeli soldiers of firing on unarmed protesters, and other disproportionate uses of force.
The Trump administration knew that protests against the relocation of the embassy were likely to occur, but was "totally unconcerned about the loss of life on the part of Palestinians,” international law professor Dr. John Dugard told RT.
By moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Washington has opted to be part of the problem in the Middle East rather than working towards a solution, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier. According to the politician, the US has thus lost its mediating role in the peace process.