Gaza City – Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 41 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border on Monday. It was the deadliest day there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and cast a pall over Israel’s festive inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
In a show of anger fueled by the embassy move, protesters set tires on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. The Israeli military said its troops had come under fire, and accused protesters of trying to break through the border fence. It said troops shot and killed three Palestinians who were trying to plant a bomb.
The steadily climbing death toll and wall-to-wall condemnation of the embassy move by the Arab world raised new doubts about President Donald Trump’s ambitions to broker what he once said would be the Mideast “deal of the century.” By midafternoon, at least 41 Palestinians, including five minors, were killed, the Gaza Health Ministry said. One of the minors was identified as a girl.
At least 772 protesters were wounded, including 86 in serious or critical condition. At the same time, just 70 kilometers (45 miles) away in Jerusalem, the opening ceremony of the embassy got under way. U.S. Ambassador David Friedman welcomed the crowd. “Today we open the United States embassy in Jerusalem Israel,” he said to warm applause. The new embassy will temporarily operate from an existing U.S. consulate, until a decision has been made on a permanent location.
Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, both top aides to President Donald Trump, led a high-powered American delegation that also included the treasury secretary and four Republican senators. In Gaza, the Hamas-led protest was meant to be the biggest yet in a weeks-long campaign against a decade-old blockade of the territory. The Israeli military estimated a turnout of about 40,000, saying this fell short of what Hamas had hoped for.
Monday marked the biggest showdown in years between Israel’s military and Gaza’s Hamas rulers along the volatile border. The sides have largely observed a cease-fire since the 2014 war — their third in a decade.
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