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White House: Hamas Responsible for Palestinian Protesters’ Deaths

A Palestinian demonstrator kicks a burning tire during a protest against the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border, May 14, 2018. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

The White House said on Monday that Hamas is to blame for the dozens of deaths of Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border in the last few weeks.

“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters at the daily press briefing.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian protesters launched the “Great March of Return” six weeks ago, storming the Israeli border along the Gaza Strip. Demonstrators set fires, planted explosives, and threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who returned fire with guns from the other side of the fence. The protests reached a head on Monday as the U.S. opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, with at least 52 killed including a 14-year-old boy. It was the deadliest single day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the governing authority of the Gaza Strip regarded as a terrorist organization by the U.S.

Demonstrators were enraged at the Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a future capital. But Shah placed the blame for their deaths with Hamas.

“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” Shah said. “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

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