The United States officially moved its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday, even as 37 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with Israeli forces along the Gaza Strip’s border with the Jewish state.
Less than 100 kilometers away from the violent protests, U.S. and Israeli officials gathered in Jerusalem as the embassy was opened.
U.S. President Donald Trump defied the sentiment of many governments around the world last December and upended long-standing U.S. policy to move the embassy away from Tel Aviv, where most nations still have embassies in Israel.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and part of the U.S. delegation at the ceremony, said, “While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once in office, this president delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.”
In remarks via video, Trump called moving the American diplomatic outpost to Jerusalem “a long time coming….Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
The U.S. leader said the United States “remains committed to a lasting peace agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians.
Earlier, in a Twitter remark from Washington, Trump said, “A great day for Israel!” but did not mention the violence.
Arab leaders condemned the U.S. action, with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri calling it “provocative” and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif describing it as “a day of great shame.”
Protests against the embassy opening raged in Gaza. Thousands of demonstrators gathered and Gazan health officials said at least 500 people have been injured, including dozens by gunfire.The deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during six weeks of protests to more than 60.[xyz-ihs snippet=”adsense-body-ad”]Critics have faulted Israeli forces for using live fire, while Israel says its actions are necessary for security as people threaten the border fence.
In addition to the fresh gunfire Monday from the Israeli side, the security forces also sent tear gas behind lines of protesters, but the crowds seemed undeterred and continued to assemble.
Protesters also lobbed various objects across the border and planned to burn tires ahead of the embassy opening later in the day.Many businesses and schools in Gaza were closed.
Along with rejecting the U.S. embassy move, Palestinians are also protesting to mark the anniversary of what they call the “nakba” or “catastrophe” in reference to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were expelled or fled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
The new U.S. embassy site is an interim location operating inside the existing U.S. consulate building in Jerusalem while a search begins for a larger site.
Trump pledged during his campaign to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and in December he broke with longstanding policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.That same month, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution rejecting Trump’s decisions regarding Jerusalem.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that moving the embassy “is a national security priority” and that Trump “wanted the American embassy real estate on the right side of town” in Jerusalem.
Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The issue has long been seen as one of the last big items that would need to be resolved in any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Heather Murdock contributed.