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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/14/18

Gaza: Israeli Soldiers Kill 50+ Palestinians Protesting Nonviolently as U.S. Opens Jerusalem Embassy

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We go to Gaza for a live update from Sharif Abdel Kouddous as tens of thousands of Palestinians have gathered near the heavily fortified border with Israel for nonviolent protests against the U.S. Embassy's opening in Jerusalem. At the time of our broadcast, the Israeli military had killed at least 30 Palestinians, and least 1,000 had been injured. "No one is carrying any weapons here. There are no bullets being fired by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers. " And yet these killings continue," Kouddous says. This comes as senior members of the Trump administration have gathered in Jerusalem for the embassy's opening.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show in Gaza, where the Israeli military has killed at least 30 Palestinians, at this count, today, amidst the massive nonviolent protests against the U.S. Embassy's opening in Jerusalem, later, after this broadcast. At least 1,000 people have been injured. Israeli soldiers are currently firing live ammunition into the crowd of tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters, who have gathered in Gaza near the heavily fortified border with Israel. The Israeli military has also been dropping tear gas from drones over Gaza.

This comes as senior members of the Trump administration have gathered in Jerusalem for the opening of the U.S. Embassy, including President Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, White House senior adviser; her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner; and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Jared Kushner is expected to lay out the Trump administration's plan for Middle East peace in the coming weeks. The Trump administration's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem has sparked widespread international condemnation, while it's been praised by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke on Sunday.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Move your embassies to Jerusalem, because it advances peace. And that is -- that's because you can't base peace on a foundation of lies. You base peace on the foundations of truth. And the truth is that not only has Jerusalem been the capital of the Jewish people for millennia, and the capital of our state from its inception; the truth is that, under any peace agreement you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital.

AMY GOODMAN: Two controversial pastors have been chosen by the Trump administration to lead prayers at the U.S. Embassy's opening. The right-wing preacher Robert Jeffress, who has previously said, quote, "Islam is a false religion inspired by Satan," and that, quote, "You can't be saved by being a Jew," he's anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Mormon, anti-gay.

For more, we go to Gaza, where we're joined by Sharif Abdel Kouddous, independent journalist, Democracy Now! correspondent.

Sharif, welcome back to Democracy Now! Explain what's happening in Gaza right now, as the U.S. Embassy is about to be opened, symbolically, in Jerusalem.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, there's just a simply massive protest all along the eastern border of Gaza, the border with Israel, throughout the entire length of the Strip, from the north in Beit Hanoun, to the south in Rafah. I was at the biggest protest site, which is just east of Gaza City. There are thousands of people converging on the site -- men, women and children. And it's a really surreal scene. There are people gathering, mostly young men and boys, up near the border, where there is barbed wire, three sets of barbed wire. And you can see, just a couple of hundred yards away, Israeli soldiers, you know, under these canopies, on mounds of sand, sometimes in jeeps, and they are picking people off with -- snipers are literally picking people off. I've seen people who weren't even close to the fence being shot. Most of the people are being shot in the lower extremities, in their legs. I saw one person shot in the throat. The latest numbers -- they keep going up -- somewhere between 28 and 30 killed, including a paramedic and a disabled person. There's a thousand wounded today, including nine journalists. That brings the total, since this movement began, this kind of somewhat unprecedented movement in Gaza, since March 30th, to 74 people killed and over 9,000 injured.

And, you know, there's -- no one is carrying any weapons here. There are no bullets being fired by Palestinians on Israeli soldiers. There's nothing I have seen that poses any threat to the Israeli military. Not a single Israeli soldier has been injured. And yet these killings continue. People insist that this is peaceful. There are no military uniforms allowed. There are no weapons allowed. Despite the fact that there are very heavily armed groups in Gaza, this was a decision that was made by a group of -- by the committees that are running this movement. People throw rocks. They burn tires, large tires, which send huge plumes of black smoke into the air, to try and block the view of the snipers. They also send these kites and balloons, which have either a burning rag or an improvised Molotov cocktail dangling off the end, and they try and guide it over, over the border.

And what most people are doing, it's just the very act of walking to the border. Some people go and place the Palestinian flag on the barbed wire. Some people do go and cut the wire and try and cross, saying that they are implementing the right of return themselves. But it's also a way -- you know, we have to remember that people are trapped in Gaza. There's really no way out. Many people have never left the Strip, because all border crossings are closed to them, and they're not allowed to leave. And so this is a way of pushing their bodies up against their confinement. And this is also happening, all of this, in a buffer zone. We have to remember that Israel imposed a buffer zone a couple of hundred meters from the border in Gaza. And so, over the years, farmers and people living on that side of the Gaza Strip have been regularly shot at by Israeli troops from the other side. And so, even reclaiming this space in Gaza itself is, in itself, an achievement. But it's a very -- it's a very difficult situation.

And as you mentioned, there are -- well, and they're using these high-velocity sniper bullets, which cause a lot of damage. Also, a couple of doctors told me that they're using fragmentation bullets, which break apart upon impact. And they have seen injuries with fist-sized holes in the exit wounds. And most of this is being -- people are being shot in the legs. They were talking about nearly 10,000 people injured, many of them by live ammunition, many being hit in the legs. You know, it kind of reminds me of the first intifada. Israelis would break the arms of Palestinians who were throwing stones. And now it's Palestinians walking towards the border, and so they're taking out their legs. We were in Shifa Hospital. If you just walk there, I mean, there was a wailing of pain in the orthopedic wards and young men and boys walking around on crutches, many of them lying in beds, their legs bandaged up with rods and pins protruding out. One doctor told me that they're creating a new generation of cripples. There's been almost 30 amputations.

And also there's the fact of the tear gas. Tear gas comes in three different ways. It's fired by jeeps, which fire in multiple rounds, five at a time, at the crowd. They're also fired by the normal kind of rifle, that goes much further. But there's a new method, which I saw twice today, is tear gas being fired from drones. And this is a new method that Israel experimented with just a couple of weeks before these protests started. It was first used in Gaza in March. And military officials were reported as saying that they were experimenting with this, but it looks like it's now operational. And this also fits a trend of Israel kind of experimenting its tools of occupation on the bodies of Palestinians. And those tools are usually exported elsewhere. And I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing tear gas drones in other places, as well. But a really chaotic situation here.

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