Guatemala opens embassy in Jerusalem after US move

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Guatemala opens new embassy in a Jerusalem business park while Turkey and South Africa have recalled their ambassadors

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Wednesday's opening (AFP)
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Thursday 17 May 2018 15:26 UTC
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Guatemala inaugurated its Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday, becoming the first country to follow in the footsteps of the United States' deeply controversial move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales were among officials attending an inauguration ceremony at the new embassy at an office park in the disputed city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The US and Guatemalan moves break with decades of international consensus.

The status of Jerusalem has long been a point of contention in the conflict: the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants East Jerusalem to be its capital as part of a two-state solution, but Israel wants the whole city as its capital.

During Wednesday's ceremony, Netanyahu profusely praised the Central American nation for making the move and noted it came only two days after the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem.

The Israeli premier said he would visit Guatemala on his next visit to Latin America.

The US embassy move on Monday was accompanied by mass protests, including those along the Gaza border that saw Israeli forces kill 60 Palestinians and injure more than 2,000.

Israel has faced wide-spread criticism over its use of live fire, but says its actions are necessary to defend the border.

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But on Tuesday, senior UN officials condemned the killings as an "outrageous human rights violation" and said it appeared that protesters approaching the fence were liable to be shot and killed by Israeli forces without warning.

“Lethal force may only be used as a measure of last, not first, resort,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights.

“The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot. It seems that anyone is liable to be shot dead.”

However, international lawyers told Middle East Eye that Israeli officials and soldiers are unlikely to face a UN investigation.

On Monday, Turkey recalled its ambassadors to the US and Israel in reaction to the embassy move. A day later, Israel expelled Turkey's consul general in Jerusalem while Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador in Ankara.

South Africa has also recalled its ambassador to Israel.