An eight-month-old Palestinian infant died after inhaling tear gas. (Reuters: Mohammed Salem)
Palestinians have rallied in Gaza for the funerals of scores of people killed by Israeli troops, while on the Gaza-Israel border Israeli forces took up positions to deal with the expected final day of a Palestinian protest campaign.
- The death toll rose to 60 after an eight-month-old baby died from tear gas
- Israel’s use of live fire against Palestinian protesters has drawn worldwide condemnation
- There are fears of further bloodshed as Palestinians have planned further protest to mark ‘Nakba’ day
The 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 (local time).
More than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas.
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.
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.
There were fears of further bloodshed on Tuesday (local time) as Palestinians planned a further protest to mark the “Nakba”, or “Catastrophe”.
That is the day Palestinians lament the creation of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in violence culminating in war between the newly created Jewish state and its Arab neighbours in 1948.
A six-week campaign of border protests dubbed “The Great March of Return” has revived calls for refugees to have the right of return to their former lands, which now lie inside Israel.
Israel’s inauguration of the new US Embassy marked the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014. (AP: Dusan Vranic)
It was unclear whether large crowds would turn up at the border on Tuesday for the climax to the campaign after the heavy fatalities suffered on Monday.
Palestinian medical officials say that 104 Gazans have now died since the start of the protests on March 30. No Israeli casualties have been reported.
Israeli troops deployed along the border again on Tuesday.
The area was relatively quiet early in the day, with many Gazans at the funerals. Protesters are expected to go to the border later.
In Geneva, the UN human rights office condemned what it called the “appalling deadly violence” by Israeli forces and said it was extremely worried about what might happen later.
UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said Israel had a right to defend its borders according to international law, but lethal force must only be used a last resort, and was not justified by Palestinians approaching the Gaza fence.
More than 2 million people are crammed into the narrow Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Egypt and Israel and suffering a humanitarian crisis.
‘The baby stopped crying’
The mother of an eight-month-old Palestinian infant mourns during her funeral in Gaza. (Reuters: Mohammed Salem)
At the Gaza hospital where the body of eight-month-old Laila al-Ghandour was being prepared for burial, her grandmother said the child was at one of the tented protest encampments that have been set up a few hundred yards inside the border.
“We were at the tent camp east of Gaza when the Israelis fired lots of tear gas,” Heyam Omar said.
“Suddenly my son cried at me that Lolo was weeping and screaming … I took her further away … When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep … I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred (dead).”
Most of the protesters stay around the tent camps, but groups of youths have ventured closer to the no-go zone along the fence, risking live fire from Israeli troops to roll burning tyres and throw stones.
Some have flown kites carrying containers of petrol that have spread fires on the Israeli side.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a general strike across the Palestinian Territories on Tuesday and three days of national mourning.
Palestinian medical officials said 104 Gazans have died since the start of the protests on March 30. (Reuters: Mohammed Salem)
The move fulfilled a pledge by US President Donald Trump, who in December recognised the contested city as the Israeli capital.
Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognised internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital”.
Most countries say the status of Jerusalem — a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians — should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.
The United States on Monday blocked a Kuwait-drafted UN Security Council statement that would have expressed “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians” and called for an independent investigation, UN diplomats said.
Israeli soldiers shot and killed dozens of Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border. (AP: Dusan Vranic)