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More than 50 dead in clashes as U.S. opens Jerusalem embassy

By Ed Adamczyk, Sara Shayanian and Danielle Haynes
More than 50 dead in clashes as U.S. opens Jerusalem embassy
Palestinians carry an injured protestors during demonstration to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba and against United States' plans today to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, near Gaza-Israel border in Rafah southern Gaza on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

May 14 (UPI) -- Dozens of people died in violence in Gaza ahead of the controversial opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.

Ceremonies marking the embassy's move from the official capital in Tel Aviv were intended to be festive and celebratory, but authorities are preparing for demonstrations that could turn into fighting.

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An interim embassy began operating at the existing U.S. consulate building Monday. The doors opened at 4 p.m., during a 90-minute ceremony led by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers, represented the United States at the ceremony. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan also attended.

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President Donald Trump delivered a message via video in which he called the embassy move "a long time [in] coming." He referred to Jerusalem as capital "a reality," adding that the United States remains "fully committed to faciliating a lasting agreement" between Israelis and Palestinians. Hundreds attended the ceremony, which was livestreamed on the embassy's Facebook page.

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Ivanka Trump formally opened the embassy with a short statement. Kushner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among the speakers at the ceremony.

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"A great day for Israel!" Trump tweeted Monday.

Protests at the Gaza-Israel border Monday coincided with Nakba Day, the Palestinians' "day of catastrophe" -- a reference to Israel's 1948 founding and Palestinians' expulsion from their homes in Israel.

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At least 52 Palestinians were killed in protests against the embassy opening, including five children under the age of 18. Almost 2,000 sustained injuries, more than 900 with live ammunition.

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"A shameless violation of international law, in some instances constituting war crimes," Amnesty International said on Twitter. "The Israeli authorities show no signs they intend to rein in excessive force."

The Israeli army said 10,000 "violent rioters" are participating in the Gaza protest.

Weekly demonstrations at the border for the past seven weeks, which led to more than 50 deaths and over 9,000 injuries, were promoted as a buildup to Monday's event. A wave of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators was expected, NBC News reported.

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While Israel lauds the transfer of the embassy, announced by President Donald Trump last year, it's been roundly condemned by many Arab countries.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Turkey recalled its envoys in Tel Aviv and Washington for consultations over the embassy move and subsequent violence. The government also declared three days of mourning for the Palestinian deaths.

"Today will go down in the history as Bloody Monday for Muslims and Islamic countries," Bozdag said. "Jerusalem's historic and spiritual status will never change. As it was before, Jerusalem will continue to be independent Palestine's capital," he said.

Monday's opening follows widespread clashes over the weekend.

Tens of thousands of Zionists, Israel's far right-wing, participated in the Flag March on Sunday -- the annual procession that marks Jerusalem Day, the end of the 1967 war and the merger of East and West Jerusalem. Fighting broke out along the route to the Temple Mount, which passes through the city's Muslim Quarter.

Several Palestinians were arrested, as were six Jewish marchers who sang songs police later described as incitement. Most vendors in the Muslim Quarter kept their shops open, despite warnings that police would be unable to protect them if the Flag March turned violent.

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The two sides were separated by police at the Temple Mount, a sacred site to Jews, Muslims and Christians, and several Jewish marchers were removed for breaking the rules of conduct, Ynet News reported.

The move of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Israel as a transformative event breaking decades of U.S. neutrality on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as Palestine's capital, should it ever become a sovereign state, and interpret the U.S. Embassy move as Washington taking sides with Israel.

Israel effectively annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war, although no country recognized the takeover until Trump's declaration of the embassy move.

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