58 Palestinians were Killed by Israeli Army in Protests and Clashes
Gaza is braced for fresh protests against Israel as the first funerals are expected to be held for 58 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces on Monday, the deadliest day since the end of the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were expelled or fled amid the creation of Israel in 1948.
Weeks of angry protests were further enflamed on Monday by the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. While Ivanka Trump and other American dignitaries gathered in the afternoon sun to celebrate the embassy opening, the Gaza border was transformed into a scene of fire and chaos as tens of thousands of protesters faced Israeli snipers.
Israel’s military said that it opened fire to stop Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, from using the protests as a distraction to break through the border fence and carry out attacks inside Israel.
Palestinians said the overwhelming majority of those killed were unarmed demonstrators while the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of carrying out “a terrible massacre” and called for international intervention to stop the killing.
Despite the bloodshed, US president Donald Trump hailed the day as “a great day for Israel” and said he believed his decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would ultimately help forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“For many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious. The plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem,” Mr Trump said in a video played at the ceremony. “Our greatest hope is for peace. The US remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement.”
Downing Street said the embassy opening was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region” and many Arab and Muslim countries strongly condemned both the US and Israel.
Palestinian health officials said 58 people were killed along the Gaza border, including six children under the age of 18. The youngest fatality appeared to be a 14-year-old boy named Ezzaldeen al-sammak. More than 1,200 others were shot and wounded during Monday’s protests, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Around 100 Palestinians have now been killed in Gaza since protesters began a series of marches six weeks ago demanding the “Right of Return” - the right for Palestinians to go back to their forefathers’ homes in what is today Israel.
Around 40,000 protesters gathered at 13 different locations along the barbwire fence which separates Israeli from Gaza, according to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), a far larger crowd than seen previously.
Human Rights Watch criticised Israel for using live rounds when there was no immediate threat to Israeli troops or civilians and said the policy had “resulted in a bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen”.
Several Palestinian journalists were reportedly shot while covering the demonstrations.
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