May 14, 2018 marked the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The Trump administration decided in December to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the holy city as Israel’s capital. The controversial opening of the embassy comes on the day Israel celebrates its creation 70 years ago, an event to which the Palestinians refer to as catastrophic as it marks the day thousands of Palestinians turned into refugees. Many say that moving the embassy destroys all hope of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, and makes the situation much more chaotic and unstable than it already was in the region.
“Shameful to see countries participating with the US and Israel in celebrating the former’s embassy move to occupied Jerusalem in a clear and grave violation of international law,” Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said to BBC.
Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian Minister of Education also criticized the U.S. decision to relocate the embassy.
“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,” he said.
The move and the opening of the embassy sparked protest along Gaza’s border from the Palestinians. The Israeli Army has killed 60 protesters, including some teenagers, and the Health Ministry reported that over 2,770 people have been injured in the demonstrations. The Israeli Army is being criticized for the force and tactics they used. Israel said it used live ammunition as a last resort and told its soldiers to aim at peoples legs and feet. B’Tselem, a leading Israel rights organization, said the military’s use of lethal force was no surprise and Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches.
“The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials,” the group said in a statement to the New York Times.
Turkey is among the countries condemning Israel for the use of power during the protests. The country has long opposed Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and is strongly against the Trump Administration’s decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem. The country declared a three-day national mourning period and recalled its envoys from Israel and the United States, as well as expelling the Israel ambassador.
“We all know that the blood of Palestinians is on the hands of Israel,” Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag, said in a televised speech. “Now the blood of Palestinians is on the hands of the U.S. too.”
A White House spokesman blamed Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization, for the deaths of the protestors.
“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,” the spokesman said.
May 14 marked the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war with Israel. Funerals were held on Tuesday for the people killed, who included 8 month old baby girl killed from tear gas, and the death toll is predicted to rise from people succumbing to injuries overnight. Hamas, the group associated with organizing the demonstrations, says that they will scale back the protest today, but they will continue the demonstrations every Friday.