US officials in Jerusalem to attend embassy opening ceremony

The US is to open the highly criticised embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, as tens of thousands of people are anticipated to gather for protests in Gaza 

 An Israeli man draped in the stars and stripes at Damascus gate in Jerusalem during a protest on Sunday (Photo: Getty Images)
An Israeli man draped in the stars and stripes at Damascus gate in Jerusalem during a protest on Sunday (Photo: Getty Images)

The US is to open its new embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial move which has been criticizes by Palestinians as well as the United Nations.

Top US officials, including President Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, have arrived in Israel for the inauguration of the US Jerusalem embassy on Monday, as protesters in Gaza prepare for a day of rallies along the frontier that are expected to be met with gunfire.

Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Israel regards it as its "eternal and undivided" capital.

President Trump's decision last year to recognise it as Israel's capital broke with decades of US neutrality on the issue, and put it at odds with most of the international community.

A small interim embassy will start operating on Monday inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem.

A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

The US president’s daughter said she was returning “with great joy” to Jerusalem, which Donald Trump has  to the dismay of Palestinians, who claim part of the holy city as the capital of a future state.

“We look forward to celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary and the bright future ahead,” Ivanka wrote on Instagram ahead of the opening, which will take place on Monday, exactly seven decades since the country declared independence. “We will pray for the boundless potential of the future of the US-Israel alliance, and we will pray for peace.”

The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel's 70th anniversary.

President Trump is expected to address those attending Monday's event via video link.

The EU has voiced strong objections to the embassy move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on "all countries to join the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem".

The timing of the embassy move has led to concerns about increased tension in Gaza.

Since the end of March, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in protests at the border.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has accused Israel of using "excessive force".

Israeli snipers have killed dozens and wounded more than 1,700 when firing on demonstrators in past rallies, according to Gazan health officials.

Organisers are hoping Monday’s  protest will be the largest demonstration to date, on the eve of the 70th anniversary commemorating the Palestinian “Nakba”, or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting in the war surrounding Israel’s 1948 creation.

More than 1,000 Israeli police, including special patrol units and undercover officers, will be working near the event on Monday. Security preparations have taken three months.

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