THE United States and Israel have drawn widespread international criticism after Israeli troops fired on protesters in the Gaza strip during demonstrations against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
On Monday, US President Donald Trump followed through on his controversial campaign promise by relocating America’s Israeli embassy to the contested city from Tel Aviv.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law and Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, attended the opening ceremony alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Palestinians protesting at the border of the Gaza strip were being targeted with barrages of tear gas and live gunfire by Israeli forces.
— James Seramba (@JSeramba) May 14, 2018
By the end of the day, more than 60 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured in what was the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014.
The decision to move the embassy and the violence that ensued was met with criticism from some. Leading the charge was the brand new government of Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Despite there not yet being an appointed Foreign Affairs Minister following last week’s election victory, the Malaysian Foreign Office released a statement accusing Israel of a “crime against humanity.”
“Malaysia is concerned at the potential repercussions of this act of state-sponsored terrorism,” the statement read.
“It will inflame sentiments leading to further violence not only in the Middle East, but beyond. This would be detrimental to the global effort against terrorism.”
Malaysia also called on the international community to act to “de-escalate” the situation.
STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ON THE SITUATION IN GAZA pic.twitter.com/A32wPSPuLs
— Wisma Putra (@MalaysiaMFA) May 15, 2018
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary expressed concern that the relocation of the embassy could exacerbate an already delicate situation.
According to Japan Today, Yoshihide Suga said that “Japan is concerned that the move could make peace process in the Middle East even more difficult or escalate tension in all of the Middle East.” He says Japan will watch the development with great interest.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed sadness over the deaths, saying Israel had “legitimate security concerns” but called for it to refrain from excessive use of force, and urged Palestinian protesters to refrain from violence.
Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, however, blamed the militant group Hamas for the deaths at the Israeli-Gaza border.
“Hamas’ conduct is confrontational. They’re seeking to provoke the Israeli defense forces,” Turnbull told Melbourne Radio 3AW, as reported by ABC News.
“They’re pushing people to the border. In that conflict zone, you’re basically pushing people into circumstances where they are very likely to be shot at,” he said.
Just in: Govt of South Africa announce withdrawal of Ambassador to Israel following attacks in Gaza.
— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) May 14, 2018
Outside of Asia-Pacific, South Africa and Turkey have both recalled their ambassadors to Israel, with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claiming what Israel had done amounted to “genocide.”
Both the European Union and the United Kingdom’s Theresa May called for “restraint” on the part of Israel. And French President Emmanuel Macron “condemned the violence of the Israeli armed forces against protesters.”
The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, decried Monday’s “shocking killing of dozens,” saying “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”
On yesterday's bloodbath in Gaza: Israeli soldiers killed 55 people & wounded thousands. Israel's kill-first-don't-ask-any-questions-later policy of murdering people protesting their being caged in an open-air prison… pic.twitter.com/zlkOEoslvZ
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) May 15, 2018
Amnesty International said the bloodshed was an “abhorrent violation” of human rights, and “appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes”. Human Rights Watch also denounced the “bloodbath.”
Despite many governments expressing their dismay at Trump’s move, several Asia Pacific governments sent representatives to join in the “celebrations” at the opening ceremony. According to Haaretz, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam were all present at the opening ceremony of the embassy.