Via video message at the opening ceremony for the controversial new American embassy in Jerusalem Monday, Donald Trump offered “a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors,” concluding with “May there be peace.”
But peace was the last thing in the Gaza Strip after Israeli forces opened fire on protesting Palestinians, killing 55 and wounding at least 1,200, in what is being called the bloodiest day in the region since the 2014 war.
Protestors lit tires on fire as snipers trained their weapons on them, filling Gaza’s hospitals with the critically injured.
International condemnation rang out immediately.
United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, denounced the “shocking killing of dozens.” Amnesty International called the violence “another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way.” Turkey described the embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “legally null and void,” as it recalled its ambassador to the United States and Israel. South Africa, too, recalled its ambassador.
Israel has blamed the violence on the Palestinian Sunni-Islamist group Hamas.
A foreign ministry spokesman called protesters “murderous rioters.”
The White House reinforced this attitude.
When pressed to condemn the Israeli aggression, deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, told reporters:
“We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths. Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.”
The Israel Defence Forces said in a statement:
“The rioters are hurling firebombs and explosive devices towards the security fence and IDF forces, and are burning tires, throwing rocks and launching flaming objects in order to ignite fires in Israeli territory and harm IDF troops.”
“Choosing a tragic day in Palestinian history (to open the Jerusalem embassy) shows great insensibility and disrespect for the core principles of the peace process.”
The embassy relocation was scheduled to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel.
Delivering the ceremony’s blessing was evangelical Trump supporter, Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
Jeffress calls Mormonism a “cult.”
In a 2010 lecture, he said:
“God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.”
The same year, on his television show Pathway to Victory, Jeffress characterized the Catholic Church an instrument of Satan.
In 2011, he called Catholicism a “cult-like, pagan religion” that “infected the early Church” and “corrupted” it by showing “the genius of Satan.”
Image credit: Manila Bulletin News