Nation & World

Death and ceremony mark Jerusalem embassy

50 miles from fatal fighting, 'glorious day' for Israel

Protesters fling projectile at the border fence separating Israel and Gaza in a camp east of Gaza City, Gaza on Monday, May 14, 2018. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Protesters fling projectile at the border fence separating Israel and Gaza in a camp east of Gaza City, Gaza on Monday, May 14, 2018. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Vivid split-screen realities played out Monday in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip as the Trump administration brought to symbolic fruition its decision to move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city, while dozens died in a chaotic confrontation between Israeli troops and Palestinians seeking to breach the enclave’s frontier.

The embassy inauguration, presided over by dignitaries who included President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law and Mideast adviser Jared Kushner, drew condemnation from across the Arab world, and was shunned by U.S. allies in western Europe.

The festivities posed an arresting contrast to the bloodshed only 50 miles to the south, where at least 55 Palestinians died on the most violent day in weeks of clashes between Gaza protesters and Israeli forces.

Six children were among the dead and more than 2,700 people were injured, according to Palestinian officials. Israel insisted it acted in self-defense and braced for clashes that security officials fear will spread to the West Bank.

With Israeli warplanes roaring overhead in tribute, the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, declared that the embassy’s move to contested Jerusalem was a decisive U.S. endorsement of “the right we extend to every other nation — the right to designate its capital city.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a key Trump ally, praised the president for “having the courage to keep our promises.” The embassy move was a long-standing Trump pledge, dating to campaign days.

“What a glorious day for Israel,” said Netanyahu. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”

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On the Gaza frontier, flaming tires set alight by protesters sent columns of black smoke aloft as demonstrators fled Israeli fire, some of it from tanks. Israel said protesters hurled firebombs and stones as they tried to break through the border fence, and that its troops came under fire, although no fatalities were reported on the Israeli side.

In a video message played at the embassy celebrations, Trump shrugged off qualms about the American ability to serve as an honest broker in any future Mideast peace talks, declaring that the United States remains committed to “facilitating a lasting peace agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians.

At the Jerusalem ceremony, Kushner sought to place blame for the day’s violence and unrest preceding the embassy inauguration on Palestinian protesters.

“Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he said.

The U.S. delegation also included four GOP senators and Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven T. Mnuchin.

The embassy’s formal but temporary move from a sprawling fortified bunker in Tel Aviv to an existing consulate facility in Jerusalem is in many ways symbolic. No decision has been made on a permanent location for the main American diplomatic mission.

The protests in Gaza, ruled by the militant group Hamas, were intended to mark the climax of a weekslong bid to protest the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation and the mass Palestinian displacement that accompanied it.

Palestinians had been protesting at the Gaza border since March 30, demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel and an end to the stifling blockade imposed on the strip when Hamas took over in 2007. Netanyahu’s government, and preceding Israeli administrations, have deemed the “right of return” a nonstarter.

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An international consensus long has held that Jerusalem’s fate should be decided through negotiations. Israel claims all of Jerusalem; Palestinians want the city’s eastern sector as capital of an eventual state.

The White House said Hamas bore responsibility for the Gaza casualties, which represented the worst violence since a 2014 war in the enclave.

Elsewhere, the heavy toll drew expressions of alarm. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, cited the deaths in calling for “utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life.” France called for “strictly proportionate” use of force by Israel. South Africa recalled its ambassador and Kuwait called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.

In Gaza, by midmorning, thousands of people were streaming toward five protest camps set up along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel.

Terrified for their daughter’s safety, Shireen Nusralla’s parents locked her in her room so she would not go to the protests. But the 30-year-old said she got out through a window.

“I’m not afraid,” she declared as she walked toward a camp east of Gaza City. “My dream is to get martyred or to kidnap an Israeli soldier.”

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