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Carnage and celebration mark U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem

As the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli security forces shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and reportedly wounded more than 2,000 others. Blanket denunciations are sweeping across the Arab and Muslim world, blasting both the embassy move and the killings. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson joins Judy Woodruff for more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Scenes of celebration mixed with deadly violence today, as the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.

    Israeli security forces shot dead dozens of Palestinians in Gaza who were attempting to cross the border there. Health officials there said more than 2,000 others were wounded. Blanket denunciations swept across the Arab and Muslim world, blasting both the U.S. Embassy move and the killings. Thousands marched in Istanbul, decrying what many called a massacre. And Turkey’s government announced that it would recall its ambassadors to Israel and the United States.

    For its part, the Trump White House said Israel has the right to defend itself, and said responsibility for the killings — quote — “rests squarely with Hamas,” the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza.

    Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports for us tonight from Gaza City.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Cheers erupted as President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin opened the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.

  • Ivanka Trump:

    On behalf of the president of the United States of America, we welcome you officially, and for the first time, to the embassy of the United States here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Thank you.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Jane Ferguson:

    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman led the festive ceremony, as the American delegation looked on. President Trump hailed the move as a great day for Israel, and in a taped message from Washington, he applauded a campaign promise fulfilled.

  • President Donald Trump:

    For many years, we failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Control of Jerusalem has been at the heart of the Israeli-Arab conflict ever since the United Nations drew the boundaries for a Jewish state in 1947.

    The city is sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews. One-third of its residents are Palestinian. They claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of their own.

    Mr. Trump insisted the U.S. is still dedicated to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Our greatest hope is for peace. The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    But adding to the religious strain, a pair of controversial American Christian pastors known for their deeply anti-Muslim rhetoric led prayers.

    John Hagee and Robert Jeffress are vocal supporters of the president. Jeffress has decried Islam as heresy from the pit of hell, and has disparaged Mormonism and Judaism as well.

  • Jared Kushner:

    I am so proud to be here in Jerusalem, the eternal heart of the Jewish people.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was charged with brokering peace talks, said he’s hopeful the move will help bring a solution to the long-running conflict.

  • Jared Kushner:

    We have shown that the United States of America can be trusted.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Finally, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared it a glorious day.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu:

    Thank you, President Trump, for having the courage to keep your promises. Our brave soldiers are protecting the borders of Israel as we speak today.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    But on those borders, that protecting meant deadly violence across the Palestinian territories, and scenes of bloodshed set against the Jerusalem celebrations.

    In Gaza, tens of thousands gathered near the border with Israel, trying to make it over the fence. The Palestinians are calling for their right of return to the ancestral homes they lived in before Israel was founded, an event called the Nakba, or Catastrophe, by Palestinians.

  • Man:

    We are now next to the Israeli border, next to our occupied village. The Israelis stole our village and dismissed us from our village.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    From Ramallah on the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel and its reaction to the protests.

  • Mahmoud Abbas (through translator):

    Today’s massacres continue against our people in the Gaza and on the West Bank. This is not an embassy. It’s a U.S. settlement outpost.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    These protests have been going on for six weeks, but today, amid the embassy move, anger here reached new levels. The crowd that has shown up today is significantly larger than they have seen in recent weeks, which they have been calling for, but they are, as you can see, occasionally rushing the fence.

    The Israelis are not showing any patience for that. They have been firing sniper rounds. And we have seen ambulances leaving the area with the injured. Dozens of protesters have been brought just to this one medical spot, and all of them have been shot in the leg.

    So many people arrived with gunshot wounds, many were forced to lay on the ground outside in agony, waiting to be taken to hospital.

    With another day of protest declared for tomorrow, the bloodshed in Gaza will go on long after the celebrations in Jerusalem.

    Judy, as of now, the death toll is at least 55 here, the deadliest day since the 2014 war.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jane, were the Palestinians expecting these protests to be so large, for there to be such a large turnout?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    They were expecting that. They have been calling on people to come out.

    Now, we drove around Gaza City this morning just ahead of the protests, almost every single shop shut down. Now, there’s been a big push to get people out to these protests to make sure that that the numbers were big, today in particular, with the embassy move going on in Jerusalem.

    That said, on Sunday, we did hear news that the head of Hamas had gone to Egypt at the very last minute to somehow broker a deal to try to prevent what happened today from happening.

    We have heard that an offer was made of perhaps being able to ease the blockade, ease the closing of the border with Egypt, the Rafah crossing. Whatever was offered was clearly not accepted, it was acceptable to Hamas.

    And, as a result, today, we saw the protests go on as expected.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, an indirect attempt to negotiate with Israel.

    Jane, we have seen some reporting — even though the Palestinians are saying that all this protest is spontaneous, we have also seen reporting saying that, on the Gaza side, loudspeakers were encouraging young people to rush the fence. What do you know about that?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Well, there’s certainly been a big encouragement to get people going to these protests.

    And all political parties and armed groups are keen to make sure there’s a huge turnout, and that includes Hamas. Hamas, of course, very much so want to be able to use these protests for political leverage.

    This is something of a new tactic to have unarmed protests of this level, of this size, so it’s certainly an important tactic. They know that so long as these protests are unarmed, they will be all the more potent and all the more politically useful.

    But we have seen, when we’re out there, those rushing the fence are unarmed, in the sense that they’re not carrying guns and weapons as such. We have seen young people with stones in hand and homemade slingshots. They burn tires to create smoke to sort of give themselves cover.

    They haven’t really been able to get to the fence itself or in any way threaten the Israeli soldiers there with being able to really come over it, but every time that they approach the fence, they are fired upon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jane, you were telling us you have been — clearly, there have been a lot of casualties. You were telling us you have been to field hospitals there to see the injured, a lot of gunshot wounds, and you were telling us many of them below the knee?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Absolutely.

    You know, along with those 55 dead today, we have also had a massive number of casualties. The authorities here say over 2,700 people. Most of the people, according to medical sources, who have been injured have received gunshot wounds to the lower leg.

    Now, when I was in a field hospital very, very close to where the protesters were pushing towards the fence with Israel, we saw an enormous amount of casualties coming in, and 90 percent of them had gunshot wounds to the leg, mostly below the knee.

    Israeli snipers are shooting people in the leg whenever they get close to the fence, and that’s causing widespread, widespread gunshot wounds that we’re seeing on many, many protesters. And that’s why those casualty figures are fairly significant, because those gunshot wounds are leading to all sorts of complications like amputations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What a story.

    And, Jane Ferguson, we thank you so much for following it.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Thank you.

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