The Trump administration has officially opened the new US embassy in Jerusalem, a decision which sparked deadly protests in which dozens of people have died.
A ceremony at the site of the embassy took place, at which the seal of the United States was unveiled by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka Trump told the audience: “On behalf of the 45th President of the United States of America, 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.”
Donald Trump also told the audience via video link:
“Today we officially open the US embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations. It’s been a long time coming.”
He said that “for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious. The plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem. As I said in December, our greatest hope is for peace. The US remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement and we continue to support the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount also known as Haram al-Sharif.
“This city and its entire nation is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. The US will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace.”
Earlier in the ceremony, the US ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, said:
“Today we open the US embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. Again the US leads the way as the first nation to do so.
“So many have worked so hard and for so long for this day to come, and they all deserve our thanks. But make no mistake: Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and debt of gratitude: President Donald J. Trump.”
Hundreds of guests turned out to the ceremony on Monday. Some appeared to be wearing the Trump administration’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats.
It is a largely symbolic ceremony, as the new embassy building isn’t ready yet – only 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 existing US embassy relocates from Tel Aviv.
The move has provoked extreme anger among Palestinians.
At least 37 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops along the Gaza border on Monday alone as they protested the new embassy, health officials in Gaza said.
The Israeli military said that some of those who were killed were planning a terror attack.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew earlier on Monday: “What an exciting day for the people of Israel and the State of Israel! Once again, we were dreamers.”
Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, fulfilling a campaign pledge and upending the status quo in the Middle East.