The White House asserted Monday that Hamas was responsible for the violence that erupted at the border between Israel and Palestinian-occupied Gaza in response to the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
During a press briefing, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah fielded questions from reporters about the violence that unfolded in Gaza this morning when Palestinian demonstrators gathered along the border fence between Israel and Gaza. The deadly demonstration, one of the largest to date, has left more than 50 Palestinians dead, according to the Washington Post.
A reporter attending the briefing asked Shah if the president was troubled by the demonstrations and Israel's response.
"At the same time there was a celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy in the south of Israel along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives," a reporter said. "Is the president concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel's response to people trying to climb over the fence?"
Shah did not equivocate in his response, stating that Hamas, the militant terrorist group that governs the Palestinian territory, bore full responsibility for the violence.
"We're aware of the reports of continued violence in Gaza today," Shah said. "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas."
Shah added that Israel's response was fully appropriate and well within the bounds of self defense.
"Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response and as the secretary of state said, 'Israel has the right to defend itself,'" Shah said in reference to comments Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made during a trip to Jordan in April.
Monday's violence was the culmination of a six-week campaign of protests along the border by Hamas and other organizers demanding Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to land that became Israel in 1948. While some protesters remained peaceful, "others talked about their enthusiasm to break into Israel and wreak havoc," according to the Washington Post.
We are excited to storm and get inside," said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he would do inside Israel, he said, "Whatever is possible, to kill, throw stones."