At least 55 Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli forces near the Gaza border today. Israel and the U.S. both said force was needed to prevent a border fence from being breached, while Palestinian, Iranian and Turkish leaders accused Israel of a “massacre.”
Today was the bloodiest in Gaza since 2014, and Axios contributor Barak Ravid reports that a diplomatic crisis is developing:
- White House deputy spokesman Raj Shah said responsibility for the deaths "rests squarely with Hamas" which "is intentionally and cynically provoking this response.”
- France and the U.K. called on Israel to show restraint. Asked if the U.S. would make a similar appeal, Shah said no.
- South Africa and Turkey announced they are recalling their ambassadors in Tel Aviv in protest over the events in Gaza. Turkish President Erdogan slammed Israel, called it a "terror state" and said "it commits genocide in Gaza."
- Kuwait has asked for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council tomorrow in New York to discuss the escalation in Gaza. Jordanian King Abdullah II accused Israel of “blatant aggression and violence” and warned that “moving the US embassy will have dangerous implications on security and stability.” Egypt also condemned “the use of force against peaceful marches.”
The bigger picture: Palestinians have repeatedly gathered near the border over the past six weeks to demand the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. Today’s protests were fueled by anger over the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Tomorrow’s could be even larger, as May 15th is Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians during Israel's founding.
Split-screen: Most speakers at the embassy ceremony in Jerusalem this morning chose to ignore the events in Gaza, but Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the “brave soldiers protecting the borders of Israel.” Jared Kushner said "those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” though those remarks were omitted from an official White House transcript.
From the ceremony...
- Netanyahu: "You can only build peace on truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state. … Remember this moment! This is history. President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history."
- Israeli president Reuven Rivlin: "In every U.S. election, every presidential candidate has promised to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Finally, we have a leader who promised this and also kept his promise."
- Trump (via video): "Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. ... We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors. May there be peace."