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Bloodshed, bullets and black smoke: The world reacts to Israeli massacre of Palestinians

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The most fatal day in the Arab-Israeli conflict in four years came yesterday, killing at least 58 Palestinians and wounding thousands more

Anna Freeman

15 Mayo 2018 14:34

Yesterday was the bloodiest day in the Palestine-Israeli conflict since the last Gaza War. At least 59 Palestinians dead, and another 2,700 wounded, according to global reports.

Around 35,000 protesters gathered at the border of Gaza and Israel territory to demonstrate against the controversial moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. It also coincided with the ‘Great March of Return’, and Nakba Day on May 15, which has prompted widespread protests in the run up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

Activists and protesters were gunned down by Israeli fire and hit with tear gas, inflicting the highest rate of fatalities in Gaza since the Israeli invasion. As black smoke filled the air and bullets rained down on unarmed Palestinians, roughly 65 kilometres away, high profile US figures such as President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and her husband, celebrated the contentious opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

‘Big day for Israel. Congratulations!’ tweeted Trump as Palestinian citizens carried bodies of the deceased. For those on the Gaza strip - who are mostly refugees and their descendants who were displaced in 1948 - Trump’s decision is seen as support for Jerusalem to become the capital of Israel.

Most of the Gazans who were killed on Monday were shot by Israeli snipers, Gaza’s health ministry said. According to the Hamas-run ministry, the dead included a baby who died after inhaling tear gas along with eight children under the age of 16.

The marches yesterday were called by independent Palestinian activists, and were backed by fundamentalist Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups. Israel has sought to justify the violence by calling the protests an extremist assault on their sovereignty - and a way to secure humanitarian aid to the strip. A reasoning that was echoed by the US administration.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said that the ‘responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,’ and said that the group was ‘intentionally and cynically provoking this response.’

‘Look...this is a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt. I think the Israeli government has spent weeks trying to handle this without violence, and we find it very unfortunate,’ Shah said at a Monday afternoon press briefing. ‘Again, we believe Hamas is responsible.’

At the U.S. Embassy celebration, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was simply protecting its borders.

‘Every country has the obligation to protect its borders,’ Netanyahu said. ‘The Hamas terrorist organization declares its intentions to destroy Israel and sends thousands to break through the border fence for that purpose. We will continue to act with determination to defend our sovereignty and our citizens.’

However, international condemnation reverberated around the globe. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - whose leadership has caused violence in similar ways in his country – said he would ‘stand with Palestinian people with determination’ during a state visit in London on Monday.

‘Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state,’ Erdogan said. ‘What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.’

The UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva: ‘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.

‘It is not acceptable to say that “this is Hamas and therefore this is OK”,’ Colville added, in an apparent dismissal of Israel’s justification for the high casualty levels among Palestinians in clashes along the border.

French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned ‘the violence of the Israeli forces against protesters,’ in a statement, while United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was ‘profoundly alarmed’ by the violence in Gaza and urged Israeli forces to ‘exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire,’ his deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Those who lost their lives in yesterday’s massacre will be buried in a coastal enclave of Gaza as more protests have been called following the bloodshed.

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