'A great day for Jerusalem' - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes new US embassy
The United States officially opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem on Monday, fulfilling a pledge by President Donald Trump who has recognised the holy city as the Israeli capital.
"Today we open the United States embassy in Jerusalem, Israel," U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman said at the beginning of the inaugural ceremony, attended by a U.S. delegation from Washington and Israeli leaders.
U.S. President Donald Trump, in a recorded message at a ceremony opening the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, said on Monday he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Our greatest hope is for peace," said Trump, whose recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocation of the embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv, has outraged Palestinians and drawn international concern.
"The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement," Trump said. "The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem will be remembered in Israel for generations.
"This is a great day. A great day for Jerusalem. A great day for the state of Israel. A day that will be engraved in our national memory for generations," Netanyahu said in a speech at the embassy's opening ceremony.
The Israeli leader thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for "having the courage" to keep his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu concluded his speech calling Jerusalem the "eternal, undivided capital of Israel."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's spokesman said on Monday that the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem would create incitement and instability in the region and ruled out Washington as being a mediator for Middle East peace.
"With this step, the U.S. administration has cancelled its role in the peace process and has insulted the world, the Palestinian people and the Arab and the Islamic nation and it has created incitement and instability,” said Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeineh.
On the Gaza border, at least 38 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire in the latest in a round of protests dubbed the "Great March of Return", health officials said.
Trump's recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December outraged Palestinians, who said the United States could no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process with Israel.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed, as its "eternal and indivisible capital" in a move that has not won international recognition.
Meanwhile, Egypt's most senior Muslim leaders on Monday denounced Washington's move to shift the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, saying it amounted to a provocation for the world's 1.5 billion Muslims.
The opening coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel's founding, which Palestinians call the Nakba, or "Catastrophe".
The timing the U.S. Embassy move shows a preference "towards the logic of arrogance and power at the expense of the value of justice, which makes our world far from stability and peace," Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Imam of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque, Egypt's highest religious authority and one of the world's most eminent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, said in a statement.
He said the move was "defying the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world".
Al-Tayeb called on people and civil institutions to take all peaceful measures and actions to express "their rejection of the positions taken by countries that sided with the Zionist entity at the expense of the Arab Palestinian right," the statement said.