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White House adviser Jared Kushner : The protests are expected to be largest in Gaza, where six weeks of demonstrations dubbed the ‘March of Return’ will reach a climax this week

May 14th, 2018 | by Richard Paul
White House adviser Jared Kushner : The protests are expected to be largest in Gaza, where six weeks of demonstrations dubbed the ‘March of Return’ will reach a climax this week
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At least 18 dead as protests take off ahead of new U.S. Embassy inauguration in Jerusalem

The protests are expected to be largest in Gaza, where six weeks of demonstrations dubbed the ‘March of Return’ will reach a climax this week


A Palestinian man holding his national flag walks in the smoke billowing from burning tyres next to a protester wearing an Anonymous mask during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Yunis on May 14, 2018.SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

GAZA STRIP – Thousands of Palestinians gathered on the edges of Gaza on Monday as the U.S. embassy opened in Jerusalem, fanning out along the fence in what appeared to be some of the largest demonstrations yet.

Israeli fire killed at least 18 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border on Monday. It was the deadliest single day of protests since the Palestinians began staging weekly border demonstrations on March 30 in an attempt to break an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

Protesters set tires on fire, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air, while the Israeli military accused protesters of trying to break through the border fence and plant a bomb, and said troops had come under fire.

By midafternoon, at least 18 Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed while over 500 were wounded by Israeli fire, Palestinian health officials said.

At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even though they were reinforcing them.

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“People have come out of the rubble to say we will not forget our rights,” said Yousef Abu Saleh, 25. “The American administration is adopting the Israeli story and stealing our right of return.”


Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

Israel dropped leaflets urging Palestinians to stay away from the fence.

“Save your lives and work on building your futures,” it said.

Crowds soon appeared largely than previous weeks and demonstrators were galvanized to break through into Israel itself. “We are excited to storm and get inside,” said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he’d do inside Israel, he said, “whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.”

He said he didn’t care that the leadership had called for peaceful protests.

Hamas leaders have suggested a border breach is possible Monday, while Israel has warned it would prevent protesters from breaking through the barrier at any cost.

Most of the casualties were in the southern Gaza towns of Khan Younis and Rafah. Israeli forces were firing volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowds, and the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard. Sirens were constantly wailing as the wounded were evacuated on stretchers to nearby ambulances. Groups of young activists repeatedly approached the fence, but were quickly scattered by gunfire and tear gas.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the army had set up additional “layers” of security in and around communities near the border to defend Israeli civilians in case of a mass breach. He said there already had been several “significant attempts” to break through the fence.

Israeli soldiers used tear gas dropped from drones in an attempt to keep the expanding crowd back.

Demonstrations are planned across the Palestinian territories to protest the U.S. decision to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital, seen as a major blow to the Palestinian cause.


Palestinian men carry an innjured protester during clashes with Israeli forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, east of Jabalia on May 14, 2018. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images

But they are expected to be largest in Gaza, where six weeks of demonstrations dubbed the “March of Return” will reach a climax this week. Israeli snipers have already killed nearly 50 Palestinians in the unrest at the fence, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and shot 2,240 more.

The embassy move has added extra friction to what was already a highly charged week. Scuffles broke out in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday as Israelis celebrated the “reunification” of the city, an annexation not recognized internationally. The opening of the embassy on Monday is followed by Nakba Day on Tuesday – when Palestinians mark the anniversary of mass expulsions and flight that displaced an estimated 700,000 people when Israel was founded 70 years ago.

This year, organizers of demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank are spreading them over two days to coincide with the embassy opening.

The result has been the incongruous juxtaposition of a star studded galas, including first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner in Jerusalem while Palestinian prepare for demonstrations not faraway. As guests sipped wine in front of a stage with a backdrop of American and Israeli flags Sunday, the mosques in Gaza were urging people to attend protests.


Ivanka Trump and her husband senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, left, attend the official reception on the occasion of the opening of the U.S. Embassy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, on May 13, 2018. GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli military says it will deploy two additional brigades of soldiers on the edges of the barricaded strip, roughly doubling the number of forces. A second and third defense line of troops will be set up and reservists have been called in. An additional brigade will be deployed in the occupied West Bank.

In Jerusalem, protests are planned at the same time as the embassy opening, with one in an Arab neighborhood just a few blocks away. More than 1,000 police officers are working with the U.S. Embassy to coordinate security for Monday’s event, a police spokesman said.

Hamas has thrown its weight behind the demonstrations in Gaza, which have deflected Palestinians’ frustration with their leadership as residents of the blockaded 140-square-mile territory struggle to make ends meet.

More than 70 per cent of Palestinians living in Gaza are refugees or descendants of refugees from areas in Israel, and the demonstrations have rallied for their U.N.-endorsed right of return.

“Our people have the right to break the walls of this big prison,” Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said in a briefing with foreign journalists on Sunday. “We went out to knock the wall of the prison and declare it clearly that we won’t accept to die slowly.”


A Palestinian man uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Khan Yunis on May 14, 2018. SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza in 2005, though the United Nations still classifies it as occupied because of the level of control wielded by Israel, which restricts the movement of people and goods. Egypt has also only sporadically opened its border.

Israel says that Hamas is using the demonstrations as a cover to carry out attacks, pointing out that some of those killed are known militants.

Hospitals in Gaza are preparing for bloodshed, setting up tents with extra beds outside.

On Saturday, protesters burned the main cargo terminal to Gaza, causing $2.8 million in damage and further choking off supplies.

Loveday Morris for the Washington Post. Fares Akram And Ilan Ben Zion for the Associated Press


Thousands of Palestinians are protesting near Gaza’s border with Israel, as Israel prepared for the festive inauguration of a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem. Adel Hana/AP

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