Follow latest developments as 52 Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded in protests in Gaza and West Bank over moving US embassy to Jerusalem
Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza on Monday, killing dozens and injuring more than 2,400 people protesting the Monday opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
As bodies fell on the border on what became the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war, US and Israeli officials celebrated the opening of the embassy.
Protests are quieting down in Gaza but they are expected to return tomorrow, a significant day for the Great March of Return movement, a Palestinian group that has held rallies at the border since 30 March.
At these rallies, demonstrators are calling for the right to return to homes they were expelled from in 1948.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel acted in self-defense in by firing at protesters on the border.
“Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. “The Hamas terrorist organisation declares it intends to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and citizens.”
לכל מדינה החובה להגן על גבולותיה. ארגון הטרור חמאס מצהיר שבכוונתו להשמיד את ישראל ושולח אלפים לפרוץ את גדר הגבול כדי לממש מטרה זו. נמשיך לפעול בנחישות כדי להגן על ריבונותנו ואזרחינו
What a great day for the great American-Israeli alliance
צילום: אבי אוחיון, לע״מ pic.twitter.com/Q2rUdD3ID5
US president Donald Trump did not attend the dedication ceremony, but his daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, traveled in his place.
Today we dedicated the new #USEmbassyJerusalem, a longtime promise to the American & Israeli people. As Jared shared today “While many Presidents before him have backed down from their pledge… this President delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.” pic.twitter.com/4iNdozAiRF
Gaza City has seen three wars with Israel in 10 years, and everyone expects another will come.
The Guardian last month looked at the huge obstacles Gaza faces in making preparations for conflict, including factional tensions and a punitive blockade have caused debilitating shortages in fuel, electricity and medical supplies.
Reporters say demonstrations are coming to an end in Gaza, where it is nearly 7:30pm.
Demonstrations empty out as people are told to go home over loudspeakers. 52 Palestinians killed according to health ministry. pic.twitter.com/r7Q4fpj9uf
Protests now quiet ending for the day – Organisers called people back. New protests expected tomorrow
The Associated Press is reporting that Gaza’s health officials have increased the death toll to 52 and more than 1,200 have been wounded by Israeli fire in Gaza.
UK prime minister Theresa May’s spokesperson said: “We are concerned by the reports of violence and loss of life in Gaza. We urge calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts. The UK remains firmly committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.”
And Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, responding to the killing of Palestinians in Gaza today, said:
We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been killed or injured as a result.
These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo ignored the deadly protests happening in response to the US’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem, while declaring the US was committed to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine.
Pompeo, whose first trip overseas as secretary of state was to Israel, said in a statement:
Today I am proud to celebrate the opening of the United States Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. This significant event fulfills a promise made by President Trump. As he proclaimed on December 6, 2017, ‘Seventy years ago, the United States, under President Truman, recognized the State of Israel. Since then, the State of Israel has made its capital in Jerusalem — the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. It is therefore appropriate for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.’
We remain committed to advancing a lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said Israel must stop firing on protestors.
“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now. The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The int’l community needs to ensure justice for victims” – #Zeid. pic.twitter.com/hBb7825Sp8
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Oliver Holmes, has more details from Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus:
“As of now, no one has crossed the fence,” he said, adding there had been “several” attempts.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a 57-member body representing Muslim-majority countries, said on Monday that the US opening of an embassy in Jerusalem was an “illegal decision” and “an attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people, which undermines the standing of the United Nations and rule of international law and thus represents an affront to international peace and security”
The OIC determines that the US Administration has contradicted its own commitments and expressed utter disdain and disrespect to Palestinian legitimate rights, and international law and has made very clear that it has no regard for the rights and religious sentiments of the Muslim Umah and concludes that the current US Administration has invalidated its role as a broker in any future peace efforts in Palestine.
Alistair Burt, the UK’s minister of state for the Middle East, said he was concerned the demonstrations were being “exploited by extremist elements.”
Burt said in a statement:
Extremely saddened by loss of life in Gaza today. Concerned peaceful protests are being exploited by extremist elements. Urge restraint in use of live fire. Violence is destructive to peace efforts. UK remains committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned “the targeting of unarmed Palestinian civilians by the Israeli occupation forces,” a day after leading Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh visited Cairo as part of diplomatic efforts to control today’s protests.
The statement from Egypt’s MFA reads:
Egypt fully rejects the use of force against peaceful marches demanding fair and legitimate rights, and warns of the negative consequences of such a serious escalation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This statement stresses Egypt’s full support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, first and foremost the right to establish their independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, urged Israeli authorities to show restraint in its use of force against demonstrators.
“France calls on all actors to show responsibility to prevent a new escalation,” Le Drian said in a statement. “France again calls on the Israeli authorities to exercise discernment and restraint in the use of force that must be strictly proportionate.”
Humanitarian groups are warning that Gaza’s health system does not have the resources to adequately respond to the injuries incurred in the protests.
Medical services in #Gaza at breaking point as already weakened hospital and healthcare system deals with almost 2000 injured in a single day, over 900 from live ammunition. Health authorities in #Gaza appeal to the international community for assistance.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza is also calling for the transfer of patients to specialist hospitals in Egypt due to the increasing numbers of patients who have had complex surgeries which require therapeutic interventions not available in Gaza
Al-Jazeera said one of its reporters was wounded while covering demonstrations in Gaza.
The Qatar-based news network said journalist Wael Dhadouh was “injured by live ammunition from Israeli forces.”
The IDF said a fighter jet had struck five “terrorist targets” in what it said was a Hamas military training facility in Gaza. It added that the strike was “in response to the violent acts of the last few hours being carried out by Hamas along the security fence”.
The White House has released a briefing that says Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “does not mean the United States has taken a position on final status negotiations.”
The briefing emphasizes that this decision fulfills a promise made by Trump and that is “simply a recognition of reality.”
The dedication ceremony has just ended with a musical performance.
The ceremony’s jovial atmosphere provides a stark contrast to the protests happening nearby.
Quite the disconnect . pic.twitter.com/1Ea0bMfF7v
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just spoken at the opening ceremony.
“What a glorious day. Remember this moment. President Trump: by recognizing history, you have made history,” he said.
Kushner was the first speaker to make reference to the protests today. Here’s more of what he said:
President Trump was very clear that his decision and today’s celebration do not reflect a departure from our strong commitment to lasting peace. A peace that overcomes the conflicts of the past in order to give our children a brighter and more boundless future.
As we have seen from the protest of the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution. The United States is prepared to support a peace agreement in every way that we can. We believe that it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give so that all people can live in peace safe from danger, free from fear and able to pursue their dreams.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, takes to the stage at the opening ceremony.
He said the opening of the embassy was an acknowledgement of the truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. “The US will do what’s right and so we have,” Kushner said. President Trump delivered because when he makes a promise he keeps it, he adds.
Tump punctuates his video message with a tweet of congratulations.
Big day for Israel. Congratulations!
In theory, at least, the Israeli military’s rules of engagement for demonstrations are largely clear.
“The orders are meant to be simple and clear. They cannot read like a UN resolution. They are repeated to soldiers before each operational action, sunk into the soldiers’ minds like an anchor.
“In the West Bank, for example, the rules often sound something like this: If you see someone with a weapon and feel in immediate danger, shoot to kill. If you feel danger but have time, instruct the person to stop, then fire once in the air, then fire to wound, then fire to kill.”
A video message by Donald Trump is played at the US embassy inauguration ceremony in Jerusalem.
There are several references to peace. Trmp ends with this:
“The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace. We wish Ambassador Friedman good luck as he takes up office in this beautiful Jerusalem embassy and we extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbours. May there be peace. May God bless this embassy. May God bless all who serve there and may God bless the United States of America.”
Two more Palestinians have been killed in the protests taking the death toll to 41, according to health officials in Gaza.
Amnesty International has also condemned Israel’s use of force as the death toll rises still further.
We are witnessing an abhorrent violation of Int law and human rights. 38 confirmed dead, including children/minors, with close to 2000 people injured in #Gaza . Many are reporting injuries to the head and chest. Over 500 injured with live ammunition. This horror must end now.
Guests at the ceremony repeatedly chanted Trump’s name.
US ambassador David Friedman welcomes guests to the US embassy in Jerusalem to long applause.
The US finally takes the next step, a step long voted upon,litigated and prayed for all these years. Today we open the United States embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. Again the US leads the way as the first nation to do so. So many have worked so hard and for so long for this day to come and they all deserve our thanks. But make no mistake, today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous an eternal debt of gratitude, President Donald J Trump.
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, has condemned Israel for showing an “appalling indifference towards human life”.
In a statement it said:
The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition. 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. B’Tselem calls for an immediate halt to the killing of Palestinian demonstrators. If the relevant officials do not issue an order to stop the lethal fire, the soldiers in the field must refuse to comply with these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders.
You can watch live coverage of the opening ceremony of the embassy in Jerusalem here courtesy of the US. The event is due to get underway in the next 15 minutes.
Watch live coverage of @USEmbassyJerusalem opening ceremony, Streaming now!https://t.co/S8deinFwbO
Rarely, if ever have the Palestinians carried the sympathetic optics of the day. Especially with the Western media/television outlets. Well dressed American and Israeli officials on one side of the screen: desperation, death and fires on the other. #USEmbassyJerusalem #Gaza
The death toll continues to rise rapidly, according to health officials in Gaza. It now stands at 37, Haaretz reports.
The Israel Defense Forces are pointing to incidents they say show how the protests are being used as a cover for “terrorism”.
The military said it “thwarted a terror attack” when three people attempted to place an explosive device adjacent to the security fence in the south of Gaza. All three were killed. It also said Israeli aircraft struck Hamas military posts in Gaza after its troops were fired on from the northern Gaza Strip. It did not provide further details.
A short while ago, 3 terrorists attempted to place an explosive device near the security fence in Rafah, under the cover of violent riots. In response, the IDF fired at the terrorists, who were killed pic.twitter.com/LFRRyfHDzl
The number of people killed in the protest is rising ominously fast and now stands at 28, according to Reuters citing health officials.
It was the highest Palestinian single-day death toll since a series of protests dubbed the “Great March of Return” began at the border with Israel on 30 March and since a 2014 Gaza war.
UN rights experts have urged Israel to halt all excessive force against Palestinian protesters and called for an “impartial, independent investigation” into troop violence that has left dozens dead, AFP reports.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “alarmed by the disproportionate use of force displayed by the Israeli security forces against Palestinian demonstrators.”
A Palestinian on a bike with his young daughter ducks as an Israeli sniper bullet lands nearby pic.twitter.com/EuWDWHZGdb
Gaza’s health ministry says the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire near Gaza border has risen to 25, Haaretz and AP reports.
#BREAKING: 25 protesters killed in Gaza today – #Gaza MoH.
74 Palestinians killed in Gaza since the #GreatReturnMarch started. 1 Israeli soldier was lightly wounded during that period pic.twitter.com/RmWIsAOthy
BREAKING: Gaza Health Ministry says number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire near Gaza border has risen to 25.
Donald Trump has hailed the relocation of the embassy as a “great day” and urged his Twitter followers to watch the event on his favourite news channel. He made no mention of the protests that the move has provoked.
Here’s the full text of leaflets dropped by Israeli military this morning in Gaza:
To the rioters,
You are taking part in violent riots that jeopardise your lives.
The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem later on Monday has prompted thousands of people to take to the streets of Gaza and the West Bank sparking a violent reaction from the Israeli forces.
Health official say 16 Palestinians were killed and at least 200 injured in Gaza when troops fired shots at protesters.