‘Gruesome propaganda attempt’: White House blames Hamas for Gaza deaths
This is a “gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” on part of Hamas, deputy White House press secretary Raj Shah told reporters on Monday, adding that Israel has the “right to defend itself.”
“We believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action leading to these deaths,” Shah added.
Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, is the democratically elected government of the Gaza strip. Israel considers it a terrorist organization.
Palestinians have gathered along the fence separating Gaza from Israel for the past six weeks, as part of the Great March of Return protests. Monday was the deadliest day yet, with 52 people killed and more than 2,700 injured, according to the latest figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry. Among the wounded are 78 women and 203 children, the ministry said.
The Palestinian authority denounced the deaths as a “terrible massacre” perpetrated “by the forces of the Israeli occupation,” and called for an immediate international intervention to prevent further deaths.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a US delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin officially opened the new US embassy. President Donald Trump had ordered the move in December, citing the 1995 law passed by the US Congress but suspended by every president since. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner were also part of the US delegation, and the president addressed the gathering in a video message.
“The actions today, both the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem and these tragedies in southern Israel, I don’t think they will impact the peace plan,” Shah told reporters.
Palestinians were outraged by Trump’s decision to move the embassy and his statement that this takes Jerusalem “off the table” in any peace talks with Israel. Palestinians have claimed East Jerusalem as their capital. Israel has annexed the entire city as its own capital, but the UN has refused to recognize that action as legitimate.
Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence. Palestinians call the day Nakba, or “catastrophe.” The 1949 armistice left Israel in control of most of the former Palestine Mandate, carved out of the Ottoman Empire by Britain at the end of First World War. Palestinians were left with nothing, as Gaza had been annexed by Egypt and the West Bank territories by Jordan.
Israel had declared West Jerusalem as its capital, and Jordan had annexed the eastern parts, including the Old City and the sacred sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Israel took over Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem in June 1967, after a six-day campaign against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Sinai peninsula, also occupied during the war, was ceded back to Egypt in 1982 in exchange for a peace treaty.
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