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The White House on Monday said Hamas is to blame for the dozens of deaths in Gaza that marred the opening of a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 52 Palestinians during protests along the Gaza border as of Monday afternoon, according to multiple reports.

“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said during Monday’s briefing.


As the violence unfolded, a delegation of aides and Trump administration officials celebrated the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday.

Shah did not answer when asked if the U.S. was calling on Israel to use restraint in its response to protesters, as the French government had. He instead reiterated that Hamas was to blame for the violence.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bears responsibility for the entire situation right now,” Shah said. 

Shah said he does not believe the opening of the new embassy, nor the burst of violence, will derail the Trump administration’s efforts to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The peace plan will be brought forward at the appropriate time when it can be evaluated on its merits,” he said.

Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv fulfilled a campaign promise, despite pushback from European and Middle Eastern leaders who warned that doing so could undermine peace talks in the region.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

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