Israeli Prime Minister declares Jerusalem 'eternal, undivided' capital as controversial US embassy opens

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem was a 'glorious' day. Credit: AP

Jerusalem will always be the "eternal, undivided" capital of Israel, the country's Prime Minister has said as the new American Embassy was opened in the contested city.

The controversial decision by Donald Trump has enraged Palestinians, who see it as clear US backing for Israeli rule over the whole city, whose eastern part Palestinians lay claim to and say has been annexed by Israel.

Jerusalem is important in both Judaism and Islam. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third most holy site in Islam and is situated in the Old City of Jerusalem, while according to the Hebrew Bible, the Temple Mount or the first temple, was built in the city.

Protests over the opening of the embassy have seen 55 Palestinians killed and 2,770 wounded, as Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators at the border.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the embassy, Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "glorious" day and thanked President Trump for showing the "courage" to keep a key campaign promise.

He continued that relations with the US have never been stronger and added that peace in the Middle East must be founded on what he said was the "truth" recognised by the US.

President Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner - who runs the administration's Middle East team - along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, attended the embassy's opening.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Kushner said that only President Trump had the courage to act on what America has wanted for a long time.

"While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American Embassy once they were in office, this president delivered," Mr Kushner said.

He continued: "When President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it."

President Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner have attended the embassy's opening. Credit: AP

Meanwhile Mr Trump declared Monday a "great day for Israel" and tweeted his "congratulations".

According to the Israeli military, 40,000 protesters are taking part in demonstrations at 12 points along the Gaza border.

The US said it chose the inauguration date to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment.

But it also marks the anniversary of what Palestinians call their “nakba”, or catastrophe, a reference to the uprooting of hundreds of thousands who fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s independence.

The world's largest body of Muslim-majority nations says it "strongly rejects and condemns" the White House's "deplorable action" in moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers react to protesters. Credit: PA

The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said it considers the US' move an "illegal decision" and "an attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people".

It continued that the move also represents "an affront to international peace and security".

The OIC said the US administration has "expressed utter disdain and disrespect to Palestinian legitimate rights and international law" and shown disregard toward the sentiments of Muslims, who value Jerusalem as home to one of Islam's holiest sites, the al-Aqsa mosque complex.

The UK has also condemned the embassy move, with the Government saying they "disagreed with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement".

Commenting on the deaths of Palestinian protesters, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said she was "concerned by the reports of violence and loss of life in Gaza" and "urged calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts.

"The UK remains firmly committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital."