US Jerusalem embassy: Gaza clashes before controversial opening

The US is to open its new embassy in Jerusalem – a move praised by Israel but condemned by Palestinians.

Top US officials will attend, including President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Palestinians oppose the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They claim the eastern part but Israel says it will never divide the city.

Palestinians in Gaza clashed with Israeli troops on the border on Monday and two Palestinians were shot dead.

Gaza’s health ministry said they had been killed in the north and south of the territory.

Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, have led mass protests in a so-called Great March of Return aimed at breaching the border fence over the past six weeks.

Some 45 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces, and thousands wounded.

Why is the embassy move so controversial?

The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not recognised internationally and, according to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Media captionWhy the ancient city of Jerusalem is so important

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. It effectively annexed the sector, though this was not recognised by any countries until Mr Trump’s declaration in December 2017.

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Various countries once had embassies based in Jerusalem – but many moved after Israel passed a law in 1980 formally making Jerusalem its capital.

President Donald Trump’s decision last year to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue and put it at odds with most of the international community.

What will be opened and who will attend?

A small interim embassy will start operating on Monday inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem.

A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

Israeli police stand guard outside the US consulate that will act as the interim US embassy in Jerusalem, 13 May 2018Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe US consulate that will act as America’s interim embassy in Jerusalem

The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

President Trump is expected to address those attending Monday’s event via video link.

Ivanka Trump greets US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (L) with her husband Jared Kushner (R) at Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel AvivImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionIvanka Trump greets US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman with her husband Jared Kushner (R) at Ben Gurion International Airport

Alongside Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who are both senior White House advisers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be at the ceremony.

The EU has voiced strong objections to the embassy move.

How have Israelis and Palestinians reacted?

Jewish skullcaps printed with pro-Trump designs on sale in JerusalemImage copyrightRAFFI BERG
Image captionJewish skullcaps printed with pro-Trump designs on sale in Jerusalem

President Trump’s decision to recognise Israel as Jerusalem’s capital and move the embassy is strongly supported by Israeli Jews across the often fractious political spectrum. It is a diplomatic victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called it a recognition of reality.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, however, has described Mr Trump’s decision as the “slap of the century”. He says the US can no longer be considered a neutral broker in on-off Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and cannot have any future role.

Palestinians in the West Bank protest against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Photo: 13 May 2018Image copyrightEPA
Image captionPalestinians have staged protests against the opening of the US embassy

In Gaza, Palestinians have held weekly protests, which have turned violent, in the run-up to their annual commemoration of what they call the Nakba or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of their people fled their homes or were displaced following the foundation of the Israeli state on 14 May, 1948.

Hamas, which is in a state of conflict with Israel, says it will step up the Great March of Return in the lead-up to Tuesday, the official Nakba commemoration.

It says it wants to draw attention to what Palestinians see as their right to return to ancestral homes in what became Israel.

Israel says the protests are aimed at breaching the border, which it heavily guards, and attack Israeli communities nearby.

 

 

 

Source: BBC