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White House Reacts To The Killing Of Dozens Of Palestinian Protesters

May 14, 2018
Originally published on May 14, 2018 9:19 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This was the day the U.S. opened an embassy in Jerusalem, an endorsement of the Israeli view that the contested city is Israel's capital. The American delegation included President Trump's daughter and senior adviser Ivanka.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

IVANKA TRUMP: 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.

SHAPIRO: Today's move breaks with decades of U.S. policy which said that Jerusalem's status should be decided in peace talks.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today was also the bloodiest day in years in the Gaza Strip. Gazan officials say Israeli troops killed at least 55 Palestinians as tens of thousands of people protested at the border fence with Israel. Israel says it was defending the border, but Gazans say more than 1,200 people suffered bullet wounds. NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us now from Gaza. And, Daniel, I know it is late into the night there now, but can you give us an update on the situation there?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, the main hospital here is overwhelmed. I want to play you a little bit of tape of what it sounded there - what it sounded like there tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

ESTRIN: These are families yelling at the entrance because their loved ones were wounded in the protests. And they're not being allowed to go inside to see them because the hospital was so overcrowded. There just wasn't enough room. And all of this started earlier today when thousands of people went to the farmlands near the border. Some stayed farther back, but others got close to the border fence. Some brought bolt cutters to try to cut the fence. People burned tires. I heard a lot of gunshots from Israeli troops.

Israel said it was defending the border from a mass incursion. And Gaza health officials say troops shot 1,200 Palestinians at least with live fire. Six people were killed under the age of 18. The U.N.'s human rights commissioner called it shocking. Human Rights Watch called it a bloodbath. And these protests have gone on for weeks. And protest organizers billed today's as the big climax.

KELLY: Well, let me ask you about that. For context, if these protests have gone on for weeks, is today's violence directly related to the embassy opening in Jerusalem?

ESTRIN: Well, they have been protesting for the right to return to lands lost in Israel, also protesting for better conditions in Gaza. It's a poor place. It's under blockade. But today the protests did draw many people because of the embassy opening.

KELLY: I want to ask you about the role of Hamas here. Israel and the White House are blaming the violence on Hamas - Hamas, which of course runs Gaza. What exactly is their role?

ESTRIN: It's a good question. Hamas - well, Israel says Hamas is trying to use the civilian protests as cover to carry out attacks and provoke Israeli soldiers on the border. And today Israel says there were several instances of armed men trying to plant explosives on the border fence. Israel carried out airstrikes on Hamas sites. But Hamas says this is a non-violent demonstration. There are no arms there. And they've been a driving force mobilizing people to go to the border.

KELLY: So what are you watching for tomorrow and in the days to come? More protests? More violence?

ESTRIN: Hamas has put out calls for more protests at the border. And there are mixed views here in Gaza about these protests, some criticism. Take a quick listen to this man.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Through interpreter) I have family to feed. I have my wife, my kids at home. And they need their daddy around. You cannot get this (foreign language spoken) by slingshots and throwing rocks.

ESTRIN: So he didn't think this protest would achieve anything. Some people say it is worth it, and they're going to go out there again tomorrow.

KELLY: All right, that is NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from Gaza City. Daniel, stay safe. Thank you.

ESTRIN: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.