Israeli forces shot 58 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,300 during mass protests on the boundary fence with Gaza on Monday, local health officials said, while just a few miles away Israel and the US held a festive inauguration ceremony for the new American Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamine Netanyahu said his military acted in self-defence against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, who he said wanted to destroy Israel, the media reported.
Netanyahu defended his military, saying: “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders.
“The Hamas terrorist organisation declares its intention to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and our citizens.”
An Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman said soldiers fired on those engaged in “terrorist activity and not on demonstrators, who were dispersed by usual means such as tear gas and according to the rules of engagement”.
More than 2,700 people were injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, including 1,359 from live ammunition. The dead included six children under the age of 18, among them a 15-year-old girl, and a medic, the ministry said.
The event was hosted by the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, one of the most prominent supporters of the move. Upon taking the stage, Netanyahu embraced Friedman and patted him on the shoulder.
About 800 people gathered Monday in the courtyard of the new U.S. Embassy, the former consulate, in south Jerusalem’s upscale Arnona neighborhood for the historic opening ceremony.