JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and Palestinian protests (all times local):
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says it’s a U.S. “national security priority” to relocate the Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Mnuchin was speaking Monday at an event in Jerusalem ahead of the opening ceremony for the new U.S. Embassy.
Trump’s decision in December to go forward with a campaign promise to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem was welcomed by Israel and condemned by the Palestinians. Previous presidents had signed a waiver postponing the move, citing national security.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community. The Palestinians seek the city’s eastern half as capital of a future state and say the move shows the U.S. is not an impartial peace negotiator.
Israeli troops firing from across a border fence have shot and wounded two Palestinians as a protest near the Gaza border gets underway.
Gaza residents streamed to the border area Monday for what is intended to be the largest protest yet against a decade-old blockade of the territory. Israel’s military says it will stop a possible border breach at all costs, warning protesters that they are endangering their lives.
Near Gaza City, hundreds gathered about 150 meters (yards) from the fence. A reporter witnessed two people being shot in the legs.
Protester Mohammed Hamami, 40, says the march is a “message to Israel and its allies that we will never give up on our land.” Most Gaza residents are descendants of refugees from the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation.
Turkey’s president has once again condemned the U.S. decision to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.
In a statement published late Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the U.S. disregarded “rights and justice,” ignoring the international community. The new embassy is to be officially inaugurated on Monday.
Erdogan says the move serves to “reward” the Israeli government despite it undermining efforts to resolve the decades-long conflict, while it “punished” Palestinians. Erdogan says: “History and humanity will never forgive the injustices done to our Palestinian brothers.”
Erdogan has been vehemently critical of the U.S. decision and hosted an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in December to condemn the move.
The Turkish president called on Israel to act “responsibly and with moderation” during possible protests on Monday to ensure no one’s killed.
Two prominent newspapers in the United Arab Emirates are criticizing America’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The English-language, government-aligned Gulf News called Monday “a sad day” in a front-page headline over a cartoon by the slain Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali of a crying Palestinian woman behind barbed wire. Al-Ali, a critic of both Israeli and Arab governments, was fatally shot in London in 1987.
In an editorial, the Dubai-based Gulf News said: “This is a day when the United States and the administration of President Donald Trump should hang its head in shame.” It called Trump’s decision “a purely political move to appease his friends on the Manhattan party circuit” and said “Jerusalem’s status is non-negotiable.”
The Gulf News regularly datelines news reports as being from “Occupied Jerusalem.”
In The National, an English-language, government-aligned newspaper in Abu Dhabi, editor-in-chief Mina al-Oraibi wrote: “Rather than ignoring history and historic rights, courage and immediate intervention is needed to save the heart of the Arab world.'”
The speaker of Iran’s parliament is reportedly warning that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will inflame tensions in the Middle East.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency on Monday quoted Ali Larijani as saying: “Definitely their measures on moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and Iran’s nuclear issue will not go unchallenged. These sorts of actions will increase tension in the region and the world.”
Larijani urged Muslim countries to take more serious measures in response to President Donald Trump’s “wrong and unwise decision” to move the embassy to Jerusalem. The city’s future status is one of the most divisive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Larijani’s comments come nearly a week after Trump pulled America out of the nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers in 2015.
Witnesses say Israeli drones have dropped incendiary materials, setting ablaze tires that had been collected for use in a planned Gaza border protest.
They say the drones set tires ablaze in two locations early Monday, releasing large clouds of black smoke.
In weekly protests since March, Gaza activists have been using the thick smoke from burning tires as a cover against Israeli snipers on the other side of the fence.
On Monday, the largest turnout yet is expected in a campaign, led by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, to break the decade-old blockade of the territory.
Mosques called on people to head for the border. A general strike was observed, with shops and markets closed. Buses deployed outside mosques to pick up protesters.
Israel’s military says it will stop any border breach.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has denounced the choice of a “religious bigot” to deliver the blessing at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Pastor Robert Jeffress, leader of a Dallas-area Baptist church and a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump, is slated to deliver a blessing on Monday at the opening of the relocated embassy.
Jeffress has drawn criticism for calling Islam and Mormonism “a heresy from the pit of hell” and saying Jews “can’t be saved.”
Romney writes on Twitter that “Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”
A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sharply criticized President Donald Trump over his decision to open a U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem, saying the American administration is “based on lies.”
Saeb Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio Monday that Trump violated a promise to hold off on moving the embassy to give peace talks a chance. Erekat says Washington “is no longer a partner.”
In December, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating Palestinians who seek the Israeli-annexed eastern sector as a capital. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem opens Monday.
Erekat says the Trump administration has “become part of the problem.” He suggested Trump’s Mideast team is unqualified, saying “the world needs real leaders, and those (White House officials) are real estate dealers, not leaders.”
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary has expressed concern that the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel could escalate tensions in the Middle East.
Yoshihide Suga said Monday that “Japan is concerned that the move could make peace process in the Middle East even more difficult or escalate tension in all of the Middle East.” He says Japan will watch the development with great interest.
Suga stopped short of criticizing the U.S., and said that Japan takes note of Washington’s pledge that the issue of Jerusalem’s status should be resolved between the concerned parties.
He stressed that Japan’s position is that the disputes and Jerusalem’s status should be resolved via negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Suga added that Japan hopes to contribute in its own way to the region’s peace by promoting trust and dialogue between the two parties through various projects.
The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem has been welcomed by Israel but condemned by the Palestinians, who want their capital to be in east Jerusalem and view the decision as a blatantly one-sided move on one of the thorniest disputes in the conflict.
President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace negotiator says moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is a “necessary condition” to a lasting peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
American officials are in Jerusalem for Monday’s relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city, a move the Israeli government has embraced but the Palestinians have condemned.
Jason Greenblatt writes on Twitter that “the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal.”
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. They view the relocation as a blatant, one-sided move that invalidates America’s role as an impartial peace broker.
Israel has warned Gaza residents they will be risking their lives if they approach the border during a planned mass protest.
The army says in the leaflets dropped by jets Monday that it will “act against every attempt to damage the security fence or harm IDF soldiers or Israeli civilians.”
Gaza’s ruling Hamas says it expects tens of thousands to join Monday’s march, suggesting a possible border breach. The march is part of a campaign to break Gaza’s decade-old border blockade. It’s also a protest against the inauguration Monday of a U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
Since March, 42 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded by Israeli army fire.
With Israel and Hamas digging in, there has been concern about large numbers of casualties Monday.
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