On Monday 14th May, the United States (US) opened its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem. The ceremony took place amid heavy police presence and Palestinian protests, as well as violent demonstrations in the Gaza Strip as part of a movement calling for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and villages from where they were forcibly expelled 70 years ago. The Nakba, or Catastrophe, took indeed place on 15th May 1948 and marks the day on which the state of Israel was established in a violent forced displacement campaign. In December 2017, US President Donald Trump had declared the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising the latter as Israel’s capital. By addressing the ceremony via a recorded video message, Trump released the following statement: « Today we follow through on this recognition and open our embassy in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem, and we are opening it many, many years ahead of schedule ».
However, while many Heads of State or Government gathered together to attend the ceremony, at least 55 Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza were killed by Israeli forces near the border. In addition, more than 2,400 people were wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition, tear gas and firebombs at protesters as well as journalists assembled in the area. Since the beginning of the protests on 30th March, Israeli forces have killed at least 90 Palestinians and wounded an estimated 10,500 others. Israeli military confirmed that just last night air strikes were launched on Hamas « infrastructure in a military compounds » and « weapons production » facilities in the north of the besieged territory, raising concern on the increasing Palestinian death toll.
By attending the ceremony in person, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the « brave soldiers protecting the border » and said that the embassy opening marked a glorious day that will be remembered in history. In response, the spokesman for the Palestinian Presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeina reiterated that the decision to establish a new embassy in Jerusalem, a holy city for Islam, Judaism and Christianity, led Washington out of future mediation efforts between Israel and Palestine. « With this step, the US Administration has cancelled its role in the peace process and has insulted the world, the Palestinian people and the Arab and the Islamic nation and it has created incitement and instability ».
In a statement released on the same day of the embassy opening, the Palestinian Authority described Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the US embassy move as « blatant violations of international law and disregard to the core values of justice and morality », adding also that « choosing a tragic day in Palestinian history shows great insensibility and disrespect for the core principles of the peace process ». In this regard, the Arab League, a 22-member body of which Palestine is a member, called on the International Criminal Court prosecutor to urgently investigate the serious crimes perpetrated by Israeli against Palestinians upon the occupation. In a statement released recently, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit has condemned the massacres of Palestinians, which he said resemble « war crimes », and called on the international community to « protect the Palestinian people, who have chosen the path of peaceful struggle and have been confronted with brutality, violence and murder ».
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