Vi­o­lence and protests as the US opens an em­bassy in Jerusalem

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On 14 May, at least 58 peo­ple were killed and thou­sands in­jured in Gaza as protests took place against the open­ing of a US em­bassy in Jerusalem.

The open­ing of the US em­bassy came at a sen­si­tive time in the re­gion, as it took place on the 70th an­niver­sary of the state of Is­rael be­ing cre­ated. Pales­tine was split into two parts; just over half of it was given to the Jewish peo­ple and, on 14 May 1948, that part of­fi­cially be­came known as Is­rael. Many Pales­tini­ans were forced from their homes. War broke out and, in the years that fol­lowed, what was once Pales­tine was al­most com­pletely taken over by Is­rael.

The re­cent vi­o­lence came af­ter six weeks of

Pales­tinian protests, which have been called the “Great March of

Re­turn”. The

Pales­tini­ans have been protest­ing along the

Is­raeli border with the

Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory of

Gaza – they want their own state and for East Jerusalem to be made their cap­i­tal. At least 40 Pales­tini­ans have been killed in pre­vi­ous weeks.

In re­cent years, no coun­try had their em­bassy (of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters in a foreign coun­try) in Jerusalem, and coun­tries didn’t recog­nise the city as be­long­ing to ei­ther side. How­ever, in De­cem­ber 2017, the US be­came the first coun­try to recog­nise Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced it would move its em­bassy there. At the time, UK Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said the move would be “un­help­ful in terms of prospects for peace in the re­gion”.

Trump’s daugh­ter, Ivanka, and her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner (who is the pres­i­dent’s se­nior ad­vi­sor), at­tended the em­bassy’s open­ing cer­e­mony. Don­ald Trump said it had “been a long time com­ing”. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­scribed the day as “glo­ri­ous” and said it was a “great day for peace”.

How­ever, 60 miles away from Jerusalem, across the border in Gaza, tens of thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans joined in protests against the open­ing of the em­bassy. They see the move as the US sid­ing with Is­rael. Mean­while, Is­rael has ac­cused Ha­mas, a Pales­tinian Is­lamic move­ment, which some say is a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, of us­ing the protests and the open­ing of the em­bassy as a way to start vi­o­lence against Is­rael and of try­ing to cross the border.

The Is­rael Defence Forces (IDF) said in a state­ment that Pales­tinian ri­ot­ers were “hurl­ing fire­bombs and ex­plo­sive de­vices to­wards the se­cu­rity fence, throw­ing rocks and launch­ing flam­ing ob­jects in or­der to ig­nite fires in Is­raeli ter­ri­tory and harm IDF troops”. How­ever, the Pales­tinian au­thor­i­ties deny this, and have ac­cused Is­rael of fir­ing at demon­stra­tors and us­ing too much force. There were no re­ported fa­tal­i­ties on the Is­raeli side.

The United Na­tions Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­tónio Guter­res said on Twit­ter that he is “pro­foundly alarmed and con­cerned by the... vi­o­lence and the num­ber of Pales­tini­ans killed and in­jured in the

Gaza protests”. Boris John­son, the UK Foreign Sec­re­tary, said the UK did not agree with the

US’s de­ci­sion to open an em­bassy to Jerusalem.

The Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter and his wife take a selfie with Trump and Kush­ner.

Gaza and the West Bank are Pales­tinian

ter­ri­to­ries.

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