- Donald Trump says “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!” as the US embassy moves to Jerusalem
- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump attend ceremony marking the occasion
- At least 52 Palestinians who protested the move shot dead by Israeli troops near Gaza border
President Donald Trump today said the “plain reality is that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem” as he hailed the opening of a new US embassy in Jerusalem amid an outbreak of deadly violence along the Gaza border.
His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner were in attendance to lead officials in celebrating the embassy’s move to Jerusalem. At the Gaza border a few miles away, at least 52 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops.
American and Israeli delegates attended the official embassy opening on Monday, including US ambassador David Friedman who welcomed the crowd.
“Today we open the United States embassy in Jerusalem Israel,” he said to warm applause.
He added: “Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude – President Donald J Trump.”
Other high-powered US attendees included Jared Kushner, the treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin and four Republican senators.
Mr Trump, via video message, told guests that the opening of the embassy had been a “long time coming”, adding: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital but for many years we failed to recognise the obvious.”
“This is a great day. A great day for Jerusalem. A great day for the state of Israel. A day that will be engraved in our national memory for generations,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech at the embassy’s opening ceremony.
He thanked Trump for “having the courage” to keep his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Mr Netanyahu concluded his speech calling Jerusalem the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel.”
It came as Palestinians are holding a mass demonstration on the Gaza border with Israel, with more than 30 killed after Israeli forces opened fire.
It was the highest Palestinian death toll in a single day since the 2014 Gaza war.
Unverified footage appeared to show protesters sending molotov cocktails strapped to kites towards Israel’s IDF troops. The kites were plucked from the sky by drones.
The protests are part of a six-week demonstration dubbed the “Great March of Return”, which began at the border with Israel on March 30.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators streamed to the frontier on Monday. Some armed with slingshots, hurled stones at the Israeli security forces, who fired volleys of tear gas and intense rounds of gunfire.
The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.
In a speech, Mr Kushner said Palestinians participating in Gaza border protests are “part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
The president’s son in law expressed hope for peace in the Middle East as he addressed the ceremony on Monday.
He said: “As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
He added that the “journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.”
But in a tweet from Washington, Mr Trump did not refer to the violence, instead declaring: “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!”
In a Fox News interview that made no reference to the climbing death toll, Mr Mnuchin repeatedly referenced Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said Mr Trump should be praised for “taking action” to keep Americans and people in the Middle East safe.
“The president is making difficult decisions because they are what he believes are the right long term decisions and not just kicking the can down the road,” Mr Mnuchin said.
The US treasury secretary also said “it’s not coincidental” that the embassy move coincided with Mr Trump’s announcement that he planned to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.
The embassy celebration was widely considered a snub by the Palestinians. Roughly 800 guests were expected to attend.
US officials said last week that Mr Trump’s delegation was not planning on meeting Palestinian officials during their visit. The Trump administration in recent months has also slashed US aid to the Palestinians and programmes that support them.
Mr Trump’s policy is a sharp departure from past US administrations, which have tried to position America as a neutral party ready to broker a peace deal.