Scores killed as Israelis celebrate US embassy opening

Israeli forces have reportedly killed 41 Palestinians and wounded as many as 1700 in Gaza, as troops fired at residents rallying against the Monday opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem.

The numbers are expected to rise.

According toThe Guardian, tens of thousands of people turned out to the protest, ignoring warnings from the Israeli military that Palestinians risked their lives by taking part. Health officials said that most of the casualties can be attributed to live rounds which were fired into the crowd. Officials added that a 14-year-old was among those who died. The latest casualties raised the Palestinian death toll to 55 since the protests began on March 30.

Palestine’s health ministry issued an urgent appeal for medical supplies due to severe shortages caused by the mounting casualties.

The protests marked 70 years since the Nakba, the eviction of Palestinians from their homes and land and the creation of Israel in 1948. The exodus of 50 000 to 70 000 Palestinians from Ramle and Lydda is also known as the Death March.

Israelis celebrate this day as their independence day and the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem was arranged to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

READ MORE: The will to live drives Palestinians

Time magazine reported that the day before the embassy’s formal opening, Israel hosted a gala event at its foreign ministry, which was attended by several US officials, including President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.

“We look forward to celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary and the bright future ahead,” Ivanka wrote on Instagram ahead of the opening. “We will pray for the boundless potential of the future of the US-Israel alliance, and we will pray for peace.”

Trump announced last December that Washington formally recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move its embassy there from Tel Aviv, breaking with decades of US policy. His decision sparked anger and protests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and drew condemnation from world leaders.

In South Africa, the ANC decided to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office over Trump’s controversial decision. The country’s international relations department said it was deeply concerned that Trump’s move would undermine Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, which has been frozen since the 2014 war.

READ MORE: South Africa must stand up to Israeli apartheid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, praised Trump’s “bold decision” and called the move “the right thing to do”.

Despite the violent prelude to the embassy’s opening, Trump tweeted that it would be “A great day for Israel!”

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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