Israel fires on Gaza protests ahead of Jerusalem US embassy inauguration

Monday’s march is part of a weeks long campaign fuelled by despair among Gaza’s two million people to break the decade-old border blockade of the territory by Israel and Egypt.

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Israeli military forces opened fire on mass protests in Gaza on Monday ahead of the controversial inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Gaza’s health ministry said more than 12 Palestinian were injured by live fire. Several thousand Palestinians had gathered near the border early on Monday, with Gaza rulers Hamas saying tens of thousands are expected to join the demonstrations.

Earlier, Israeli army jets dropped leaflets over Gaza warning that those approaching the border fence “jeopardise” their lives.

The warning said the army is “prepared to face all scenarios and will act against every attempt to damage the security fence or harm IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians.”

Witnesses said Israeli drones dropped incendiary materials on the Gaza Strip setting ablaze tires that had been stockpiled to use in the protests.

They say the drones set tires ablaze in two locations early Monday, releasing large clouds of black smoke.

In weekly protests since March, Gaza activists have been using the thick smoke from burning tires as a cover against Israeli snipers on the other side of the fence.

Monday’s march is part of a weeks long campaign fuelled by despair among Gaza’s two million people to break the decade-old border blockade of the territory by Israel and Egypt.

Since weekly border marches began in late March, 54 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded by Israeli army fire.

Monday’s protest also targets the inauguration of the US Embassy in contested Jerusalem later that day.

Mosques in Gaza called on people to head for the border. A general strike was observed, with shops and markets closed. Buses deployed outside mosques to pick up protesters.

Israel’s military says it will stop any border breach.

President Donald Trump announced his decision in December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, triggering a joyous reaction from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s far-right nationalist coalition government.

The move caused global outrage and was seen as a major blow to any attempt to restart negotiations based on implementing a two state solution to the conflict.

East Jerusalem is recognised as occupied Palestinian territory under international law.

Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, blasted the Trump administration on Monday, saying Trump had violated a promise to hold off on moving the embassy to give peace talks a chance and that his administration is “based on lies.”

Erekat said the Trump administration has “become part of the problem, not part of the solution.” He suggested Trump’s Mideast team is unqualified, saying “the world needs real leaders, and those (White House officials) are real estate dealers, not leaders.”

Trump’s Mideast peace negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, wrote on Twitter that “the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal.”

Greenblatt and other administration officials have not said how they would move forward without a Palestinian partner.

In a reflection of the deep sensitivities, dozens of countries — including Britain, France and Germany — skipped a celebration Sunday night at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Monday’s opening will be attended by Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who both serve as White House advisers. Kushner leads the Trump Mideast team.

via The New Arab

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