Death toll in Gaza rises, 25 Palestinians martyred in clashes

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JERUSALEM/ KARACHI (ENN) Violent clashes erupted along the Gaza Strip’s border hours ahead of the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem here on Monday.

Initially, 16 Palestinians lost their lives at the hands of Israeli gunfire and hundreds more wounded. However, the Associated Press reported later in the day, citing the Gaza Health Ministry, that the death toll had risen to 25.

With a White House delegation and Israeli officials set to gather for the inauguration ceremony, the Gaza clashes had wounded more than 500 Palestinians in addition to the 25 martyred, the Gazan health ministry said.

The martyred included a 14-year-old, according to the ministry.

Thousands had gathered near the border in protest while smaller numbers of stone-throwing Palestinians were approaching the fence and trying to break through, with Israeli snipers positioned on the other side.

Crowds built throughout the day in the Palestinian enclave less than 100 kilometres (60 miles) away from Jerusalem and sealed off from Israel by a blockade.

The inauguration that follows US President Donald Trump’s deeply controversial December 6 recognition of the disputed city as Israel’s capital also comes at a time of heightened regional tensions.

It follows Trump’s announcement last week that the United States is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and Israeli strikes two days later on dozens of Iranian targets in Syria.

Those strikes came after rocket fire toward Israeli forces in the occupied Golan Heights that Israel blamed on Iran.

The Trump administration has vowed to restart the moribund Middle East peace process but the embassy move has inflamed tensions.

Monday’s inauguration ceremony at 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) will include around 800 guests – though not Trump himself – at what until now had been a US consulate building in Jerusalem.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will lead the Washington delegation that includes Trump´s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, both White House aides, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

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