GAZA/JERUSALEM – Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday when the high-profile opening of the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem raised tension to boiling point after weeks of demonstrations. In the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014, Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 55 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured either by live gunfire, tear gas or other means. The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries, including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with Turkey calling it "a massacre." The White House declined to join in urging Israel to exercise caution and pinned the blame squarely on Gaza's ruling Hamas group, backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the Israeli military's actions as self-defence of his country's borders. In siding squarely with Israel, Washington put distance between itself and its European allies for the second time in a week, after angering France, Germany and others last Tuesday by abandoning an international nuclear deal with Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday held talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, ahead of international meetings this coming week in Europe on those crises. The visit by Kerry, who also held talks with the crown prince, deputy crown prince and foreign minister, comes at a critical time in efforts to rein in fighting and encourage political dialogue in all three countries, wracked by violence for years. Kerry was traveling later Sunday to Vienna where he planned to host, with Italy's foreign minister, talks on Libya on Monday, and, with his Russian counterpart, meetings on Syria on Tuesday. The 17-member International Syria Support Group includes Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.
JERUSALEM - President Donald Trump's national security adviser said Sunday that the American military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group and on Turkey assuring the safety of U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters. John Bolton said there is no timetable for the pullout, but insisted the military presence is not an unlimited commitment. "There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal," Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem before heading to Turkey on Monday, where he will be joined by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. "The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement." Those conditions, he said, included defeating what's left of IS in Syria and protecting Kurdish militias who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the extremist group. Bolton's comments were the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton was deployed to Israel to allay concerns about President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and discuss the process with Turkish officials. The pullout announced last month was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as the president acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of US Congress for a more orderly withdrawal. Bolton plans to meet Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other officials on Sunday before travelling to Turkey. Israeli officials have expressed concern that a swift withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 troops could enable Iran to expand its influence and presence in war-torn Syria. "There is a great concern among US allies in the region about what is the next step," said Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent's University London.