Gaza-Israel Border : Thousands of Gaza residents turned out yesterday for the funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, while on the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli forces prepared to face the expected final day of a Palestinian protest campaign.
Monday’s violence on the border, which took place as the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, was the bloodiest for Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza conflict. The death toll rose to 60 overnight after an eight-month-old baby died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp on Monday. More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas, Palestinian medics said.
Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation. The United Nations Security Council was due to meet to discuss the situation. Israel has said it is acting in self-defence to defend its borders and communities. Its main ally the United States has backed that stance, with both saying that Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the coastal enclave, instigated the violence.
Yesterday, mourners marched through Gaza, waving Palestinian flags and calling for revenge. “With souls and blood we redeem you martyrs,” they shouted. There were fears of further bloodshed as a six-week protest campaign was due to reach its climax. May 15 is traditionally the day Palestinians mark the “Nakba”, or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven from their homes in violence culminating in war between the newly created Jewish state and its Arab neighbours in 1948.
The protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” began on March 30 and revived calls for refugees to have the right of return to their former lands, which now lie inside Israel. Israel rejects any right of return, fearing that it would deprive the state of its Jewish majority.
Palestinian medical officials say 105 Gazans have now been killed since the start of the protests and nearly 11,000 people wounded, about 3,500 of them hit by live fire. Israeli officials dispute those numbers. No Israeli casualties have been reported.
More than 2 million people are crammed into the narrow Gaza Strip, more than two thirds of them refugees. Citing security concerns, Israel and Egypt maintain tight restrictions on the enclave, deepening economic hardship and raising humanitarian concerns.