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Clashes ahead of US Jerusalem embassy opening kill 16 Palestinians

AFP  |  Jerusalem 

Violent clashes erupted along the Strip's border hours ahead of the controversial opening of the US embassy in today, leaving 16 Palestinians dead from Israeli fire and hundreds more wounded.

With a delegation and Israeli officials set to gather for the inauguration ceremony, the clashes had wounded more than 500 Palestinians in addition to the 16 killed, the Gazan health ministry said.

The dead included a 14-year-old, according to the ministry.

Thousands had gathered near the border in protest while smaller numbers of stone-throwing Palestinians were approaching the fence and trying to break through, with Israeli snipers positioned on the other side.

Crowds built throughout the day in the Palestinian enclave less than 100 kilometres away from and sealed off from by a blockade.

said "approximately 10,000 violent rioters are currently assembled in a number of locations along the Strip border and thousands more are gathered by the tents approximately half a kilometre away from the security fence."

It said soldiers "are responding with riot dispersal means and fire, and are operating according to standard operating procedures." The inauguration that follows US Donald Trump's deeply controversial December 6 recognition of the disputed city as Israel's capital also comes at a time of heightened regional tensions.

It follows Trump's announcement last week that the is withdrawing from the nuclear deal and Israeli strikes two days later on dozens of Iranian targets in

Those strikes came after rocket fire toward Israeli forces in the occupied that blamed on

The has vowed to restart the moribund peace process but the embassy move has inflamed tensions.

On Sunday, released a message saying America's decision was evidence that "appeasement" has failed Palestinians and urged Muslims to carry out jihad against the United States, according to a transcript provided by the SITE monitoring agency.

Monday's inauguration ceremony at 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) will include around 800 guests -- though not Trump himself -- at what until now had been a building in

US will lead the delegation that includes Trump's daughter and her husband Jared Kushner, both aides, as well as

Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly called Trump's decision "historic", welcomed them at a reception on Sunday.

"Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years," he said.

"It's been the capital of our state for the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time." Sullivan called the embassy "a long overdue recognition of reality." Saeb Erekat, secretary-general, called it a "hostile act against international law".

Police and the deployed massively.

Around 1,000 police officers were being positioned around the embassy for the inauguration.

said it was almost doubling the number of troops surrounding Gaza and in the occupied

It also dropped leaflets warning Gazans to stay away from the fence, including one with a photo of the Champs-Elysees boulevard in and the caption: "Gaza 2025? The choice is in your hands." Israeli said in a message to Gazans "we will protect our civilians with all our means and not enable the fence to be crossed." Israelis began celebrating on Sunday, as tens of thousands of marched in Jerusalem, some holding American flags, to mark Jerusalem Day.

The annual event is an Israeli celebration of the "reunification" of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War.

occupied the and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

Beyond the disputed nature of Jerusalem, the date of the embassy move is also key.

May 14 marks

The following day, Palestinians mark the "Nakba", or catastrophe, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

Palestinian protests are planned on both days.

There have already been weeks of protests and clashes along the Gaza border, with 70 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire there since March 30.

No Israelis have been wounded and the military has faced criticism over the use of live fire.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 14 2018. 17:00 IST