American government officials, dignitaries, and assorted VIPs converged on Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate the opening of the U.S. embassy there. At the same time, Israeli troops killed at least 41 Palestinian protesters and wounded nearly 2,000 others along the Gaza border. The Gaza health ministry called the violence a “terrible massacre.”
The killings mark the highest single-day death toll in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war. They come after weeks of similar protests along the border, in which dozens of Palestinians have been killed.
At least 35,000 Palestinians were massed at points along the fence separating Israel from the Gaza strip in protest of the embassy opening. There, Israeli officials opened fire at protesters. The vast majority appeared to be unarmed, though Israel claimed at least three people were attempting to hurl explosives.
The bloodshed did not appear to trouble anyone celebrating in Jerusalem. Flanked by banners proclaiming “Trump Make Israel Great,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin praised the embassy opening as “an incredible, momentous day.” Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and other administration figures were also on hand sipping wine to celebrate Trump’s decision to relocate the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem—a move that effectively negated Palestinian claims to the city as an eventual capital in any future negotiated peace deals.
Trump issued his own statement of congratulations as well.
Over the weekend, Israel’s notoriously racist Beitar Jerusalem soccer team—infamous for its fans who chant “death to Arabs”, and for having never hired an Arab player—announced it had changed its official name to Beitar Trump Jerusalem.
“The football club Beitar Jerusalem, one of the most prominent symbols of the city, are happy to honor the President for his love and support with a gesture of our own,” the team wrote on Facebook.
While the fiercest recent violence has largely been clustered around the Gaza border, protests are also planned across the West Bank, and within Jerusalem itself. More than 1,000 Israeli police officers have reportedly been activated to boost U.S. embassy security, and ensure revelers are able to celebrate without having to worry about the mounting death toll in Gaza.
Monday’s embassy opening will be followed on Tuesday with the Palestinian observance of Nakba Day, in commemoration of the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed and displaced during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
Update, 11:06 am: Speaking at the embassy dedication ceremony, Jared Kushner placed the blame for the bloodshed in Gaza squarely on the Palestinians, saying, “those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
Thus far there have been zero Israeli deaths reported from today’s clashes.