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Dozens killed in Gaza as US Embassy opens in Jerusalem

AP  |  Gaza City 

Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 52 Palestinians during mass protests along the border today. It was the deadliest day there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and cast a shadow over Israel's festive inauguration of the new in contested

In a show of anger fueled by the embassy move, protesters set tires on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. Later today, Israeli forces fired from tanks, sending protesters fleeing to take cover.

The military said its troops came under fire in some areas, and said protesters tried to break through the border fence. It said troops shot and killed three Palestinians trying to plant a bomb.

said in a video message played at the embassy inauguration which took place just 70 kilometers (45 kilometers) from the bloodshed on the border that he remains committed to "facilitating a lasting peace agreement" between Israelis and Palestinians.

"A great day for Israel!" Trump tweeted earlier today.

However, today's steadily climbing death toll and wall-to-wall condemnation of the embassy move by the Arab world raised new doubts about Trump's ambitions to what he once said would be the Mideast "deal of the century." By late afternoon, at least 52 Palestinians, including five minors, were killed, the Health Ministry said. One of the minors was identified as a girl.

The ministry said 1,204 Palestinians were shot and wounded, including 116 who were in serious or critical condition.

The statement says about 1,200 others suffered other types of injuries, including from tear gas.

At the embassy ceremony in Jerusalem, Trump and chief Mideast adviser placed the blame on the Gaza protesters.

"As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution," he said. Kushner and Trump daughter led a high-powered American delegation that also included the and four Republican senators.

The new embassy will temporarily operate from an existing U.S. consulate, until a decision has been made on a permanent location.

In Gaza, the Hamas-led protest was meant to be the biggest yet in a weeks-long campaign against a decade-old blockade of the territory. The estimated a turnout of about 40,000, saying this fell short of what had hoped for. The march was also directed at the inauguration of the embassy.

Moving the embassy from to a key Trump campaign promise infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east as a future capital. Monday marked the biggest showdown in years between and Gaza's rulers along the volatile border. The sides have largely observed a cease-fire since the 2014 war their third in a decade.

The protest was the culmination of a campaign, led by and fueled by despair among Gaza's 2 million people, to break the blockade of the territory imposed by and after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Since weekly border marches began in late March, 85 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 2,500 wounded by fire. Hamas said four members, including three security men, were among the dead Monday.

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure, said the mass border protests against will continue "until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved." "Moving the to Jerusalem will be a disaster for the and a black day in the history of the American people because they are partners with the occupation and its aggression against the Palestinian people," he added.

Throughout the day, sirens wailed as the wounded were carried to nearby ambulances. Groups of young activists repeatedly approached the fence, but were quickly scattered by gunfire and tear gas.

Jonathan Conricus, an spokesman, said the had set up additional "layers" of security in and around communities near the border to defend Israeli civilians. He said there already had been several "significant attempts" to break through the fence. The said aircraft targeted a Hamas post in northern Gaza after Israeli troops came under fire.

The timing of today's events was deeply symbolic to and the Palestinians. The U.S. said it chose the date to coincide with

But it also marks the anniversary of what Palestinians call their "nakba," or catastrophe, a reference to the uprooting of hundreds of thousands who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation.

A majority of Gaza's 2 million people are descendants of refugees, and the protests have been billed as the "Great March of Return" to long-lost homes in what is now Israel. Protester Mohammed Hamami, a 40-year-old civil servant, attended the march with his mother and five children. "Today we are here to send a message to Israel and its allies that we will never give up on our land," he said.

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

First Published: Mon, May 14 2018. 23:05 IST