58 dead in border protests after US embassy in Israel relocated to Jerusalem

On Monday, May 14, according to Vox, Gaza had its bloodiest day since the 2014 war. In total, 58 Palestinians were killed, and over 1,200 were injured, by Israeli forces, at the border, during protests after American President Donald Trump’s relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The violence is a continuation of the 51-year-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in the region, over territory, immigration and related issues. Both groups want control of Jerusalem, with the Palestinians specifically wanting East Jerusalem, to be the capital of their future state. The Palestinians oppose the blockade on the border of Israel and want Palestinians to be able to return to Jerusalem, their homeland, which contains many monuments sacred to both groups. Throughout the conflict, the United States has been a staunch supporter of Israel and its control of Jerusalem. Israel, the United States, and the United Nations recognize Hamas, the current governing body of the Palestinian territory Gaza, as a terrorist organization.

The Guardian reported that President Trump first announced plans to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem in a short speech delivered last December, where he also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He stated, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.” Officials then claimed the transition would take at least three years, so it came as a shock to the international community when it took fewer than six months.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his promise to move the embassy, were highly controversial, being widely condemned by US Allies including the UK and by Palestine and other Islamic states. The Israeli government, however, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Monday a “glorious day,” praised Trump when he made the recognition and promise, and in May when he acted upon it. At the opening ceremony of the new embassy in Jerusalem, Washington ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stated, optimistically, “Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage, and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump” according to The New York Times.

The mood at the border was more chaotic, to say the least. The Guardian reports that protestors lit tires on fire to create “smoke screens” against Israeli snipers. They then rushed the fence, though none made it through, according to the Israeli military, which claimed, “The rioters are hurling firebombs and explosive devices towards the security fence and IDF forces, and are burning tires, throwing rocks and launching flaming objects in order to ignite fires in Israeli territory and harm IDF troops.” Hamas has encouraged and funded protests, and actively encouraged protestors at the border on May 14 to rush the fence over a loudspeaker. The violence raised the death toll of the recent protests to over 100.

Many have criticized Israel for their violent response to the protests. According to Real Clear Politics, Amnesty International called Israel’s actions “horrific” while senator Bernie Sanders said, “Instead of applauding Israel for its actions, Israel should be condemned. Israel has a right to security, but shooting unarmed protesters is not what it is about.” The White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, however, only blamed Hamas saying, “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he told reporters. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.”

With President Trump’s recent withdrawal of the United States from the Iran deal and now this, tensions are mounting in the Middle East. As Vox points out, Trump’s transference of the US embassy basically takes the idea of a Palestinian state off the table. Peace in the Middle East, the espoused goal of both Hamas and the Israeli government, seems far off.

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