Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians hit a fever pitch this week with America’s official move of its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Dozens of Palestinian protesters were killed in clashes along the border on Monday. While world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Israel’s use of deadly force against a mob armed largely with rocks, U.S. officials have placed the blame on the side of provocateurs on the Palestinian side.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was among the prominent voices citing the hand of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror organization, in stoking a violent response from Israeli forces.
“This is how determined they are to make the lives of the Palestinian people miserable,” she said on Tuesday. “They light Molotov cocktails, attached to kites on fire, and attempt to fly them into Israel to cause as much destruction as possible.”
She then challenged other nations to consider their response if they were in Israel’s position.
“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she said. “In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.”
One Palestinian teen acknowledged in an interview on Monday that those tactics are commonplace and, at least among some of the protesters, represent a desire to inflict even more pain on Israel.
The unidentified 19-year-old was at the site of this week’s violence when NPR host Steve Inskeep spoke to him through a translator. Batya Ungar-Sargon of The Forward, a magazine geared toward a Jewish-American audience, shared some of the young man’s violent rhetoric.
According to the translated responses, the Palestinian was proudly carrying a kite meant to catch fire after flying over the border into Israel.
“This is a kite that’s going to go to the Jews,” according to the resident of Gaza.
The symbolism of the kite is clear and often includes swastikas or other Nazi imagery.
“The Jews go crazy for Hitler when they see it,” the Palestinian said.
Other provocative elements of the kites include “writing claiming Jerusalem for Palestinians,” he explained.
The most direct threat came in the form of a comparison to the way the kites self-destruct.
“This is actually what we want them to know, that we want to burn them,” he reportedly said.
White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah blamed these tactics and threats, which he tied to the influence of Hamas, for the deadly response from the Israeli side of the border.
“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response and as the secretary of state said, ‘Israel has the right to defend itself,'” he said at a press briefing on Monday.
According to Shah, the Trump administration was aware of the Palestinian deaths but did not rebuke the response of Israeli military forces.
“We’re aware of the reports of continued violence in Gaza today,” he said. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas.”
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