At least 43 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 wounded by Israeli troops on the Gaza border Monday, in what might be just a prelude to more violence to come in a week that includes both the controversial opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and planned protests throughout the Palestinian territories.
Hamas, which rules Gaza, has been holding regular protests at the Israeli-Gaza border in the lead-up to May 15, the date on which Palestinians observe Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day, to commemorate the displacement of Palestinians following the Israeli declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. Dozens have been killed at the border over the past few weeks, and Monday’s violence was the worst so far.* Palestinians hurled stones, firebombs and burning tires, while Israeli troops responded with live sniper fire.
There’s unlikely to be any respite from the violence and tension Tuesday, when marches are planned throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank for Nakba Day. While the Palestinian Authority, dominated by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, is supporting the protests, it’s unclear to what extent it will support direct clashes with Israel.
Monday’s protests and killings followed a weekend of violence that also included a Saturday night Israeli airstrike on a tunnel in Northern Gaza and clashes in Jerusalem between police and Palestinians protesting the hundreds of Jewish worshippers who visited the Temple Mount on Sunday to mark Jerusalem Day, a holiday commemorating the reunification of the city in 1967.
The various anniversaries and commemorations this week would be tense enough without the additional flashpoint of the embassy move. The “new embassy,” which is actually just a pre-existing consular facility where Ambassador David Friedman and a few staffers will work until a permanent new facility is built, was formally opened Monday in a ceremony attended by a U.S. delegation including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson. Most European governments are boycotting the ceremony.
With the embassy move, along with the decision last week to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, the Trump administration has been working out brilliantly for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s otherwise beleaguered government. On the other hand, given that Palestinian leaders have been effectively boycotting contact with U.S. officials since the embassy move was announced in December—the delegation in town for the ceremony won’t meet with any Palestinians—Trump’s formerly stated intention of dispatching Kushner to reach the “ultimate deal” for Mideast peace has been put on hold indefinitely.
Judging by the events of this week, the trend is moving in the opposite direction.
*Correction, May 15, 2018: This piece originally misstated that hundreds of protesters have been killed at the Israel-Gaza border in recent weeks. It has been fewer than 100.