Jerusalem Embassy Signs

Xinhua/Sipa USA

Heightened Tensions As U.S. Prepares To Open New Israel Embassy In Jerusalem

May 13, 2018 - 1:30 pm

JERUSALEM (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- Tensions were heightened in Israel this weekend, as officials prepared to open the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

At a ceremony on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised President Donald Trump's “bold decision” to move the American Embassy to contested Jerusalem.

Netanyahu welcomed an American delegation, led by Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, at a celebration in Israel's Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Sunday evening. The new embassy is to open on Monday.

Dozens of foreign diplomats had been expected to attend, though many ambassadors of European nations who oppose the move skipped it.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the U.S. as a Mideast peace broker.

But Netanyahu insisted the embassy move is “the right thing to do” and ordered other countries to follow suit.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking delegation of Gaza's Hamas rulers headed to Egypt a Sunday, ahead of a planned massive rally at the Israel-Gaza border.

The day before, Israeli forces on Saturday blew up what they said was a Hamas terror tunnel at the Gaza border. Palestinian protesters have been fighting with Israeli troops at the border since March.

On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians, who have been protesting the embassy move, marched through the streets of Gaza, carrying the body of a protester shot by Israeli troops Friday.

He was among an estimated 15,000 demonstrators, some burning tires and hurling rocks at Israeli forces. Palestinians have also started attaching fire-bombs to kites and flying them into Israel. 

Along the Gaza border on Friday, CBS News found Israelis flying kites in a counter-demonstration.

"They kill their own. I mean – they kill their own," said Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar was killed four years in a war with Hamas. His body was never returned. She's angry and thinks Hamas is using Palestinians' suffering for publicity.

"This is awful – to use children's games – kites – and to turn them into bombs," Goldin said. "To burn what? The fields?"

As a result of one of those fire-kites, a crop that has been destroyed, which was a field of wheat and while the damage is relatively limited, ultimately it is symbolic. After all, this is a fight over land – and who it belongs to.

Racing across the fields, we found firefighters on specially-fitted motorcycles. Captain Liron Soll explained they go where fire engines cannot. 

"All big fires start from small one – if you are in the right place in the right time – you can close it with a glass of water. So, we are the glass of water," Soll said. 

Israelis told CBS News the burned fields on this side of the conflict cannot compare with the level of suffering or images coming from Gaza. Anger is boiling, Hamas is calling on its supporters to storm the security fence -- and Israel's military is strengthening its defenses.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)