Palestinians bury Gaza dead as more violence feared on ‘Day of Catastrophe’


Palestinians were burying their dead on Tuesday, after Israeli troops killed scores of people and injured thousands in the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014.

More violence is feared as Palestinians mark their displacement from Israel after the Jewish state was created 70 years ago on the annual Nakba Day, or the Day of Catastrophe, on May 15.

In the West Bank, about 200 Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in Bethlehem, throwing stones as smoke billowed from burning tires. The soldiers retaliated with tear gas. Another 100 protesters demonstrated in Ramallah.

The United Nations Human Rights office tweeted, “extremely worried about what may happen today — an emotional day on all sides — and in the weeks ahead. We urge maximum restraint. Enough is enough.”

Health officials in Gaza said 58 Palestinians were killed in mass protests along the border with Israel on Monday — most of them by gunfire — and 2,700 were injured. It came as the U.S. held an inauguration ceremony to celebrate the U.S. Embassy’s contentious move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv and as Israel marked 70 years since the Jewish nation was established.

“This disproportionate and illegal use of lethal force against unarmed civilian protesters is criminal,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, blamed Gaza’s Hamas leadership, saying the Islamic militant group encouraged Palestinians to breach the border fence. He said several such efforts had been repelled, and the military was committed to ensuring that communities on the Israeli side were not overrun.

“Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

 “The Hamas terrorist organisation declares it intends to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal. We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and citizens,” Netanyahu added.

White House spokesman Raj Shah blamed Hamas for the deaths, saying the group was “cynically provoking” the Israeli response. He said Israel has the right to defend itself and called Monday “a great day for Israel and the United States.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the embassy as an “American settlement outpost,” called for three days of mourning.

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday to discuss the violence.

Israel’s shooting of protesters was widely condemned by the international community. British Prime Minister Theresa May was among Western leaders calling for “calm and restraint” on both sides.

South Africa and Turkey announced they were recalling their ambassadors to Israel over the Israeli military’s actions. Turkey also recalled its ambassador to the U.S.

On Tuesday, aid organization Doctors without Borders, which said its medical teams were “working around the clock” to treat many of the wounded, said the “Israeli army must stop its disproportionate use of violence against Palestinian protesters. “

“This bloodbath is the continuation of the Israeli army’s policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators, on the assumption that anyone approaching the separation fence is a legitimate target. Most of the wounded will be condemned to suffer lifelong injuries,” Doctors without Borders said in a statement.

Alistair Burt, the U.K.’s Minister for the Middle East, said Monday’s events were “shocking,” “tragic” and “extremely worrying.”

“The U.K. remains committed to a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. All sides now need to show real leadership and courage, promote calm, refrain from inflaming tensions further, and show with renewed urgency that the path to a two-state solution is through negotiation and peace,” Burt said in a statement.

The embassy move to Jerusalem outraged Palestinians who have long hoped to create a capital for themselves in the city’s eastern sector. Israeli and U.S. officials were determined not to let the violence diminish the embassy celebration.

“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,” President Trump said in a taped message played at the dedication ceremony. “For many years, we failed to acknowledge the obvious.”

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to Trump, and the president’s daughter Ivanka were part of the U.S. delegation attending. Kushner, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, drew a standing ovation when he mentioned Trump’s announcement last week that the United States would withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy.

“The United States stands with Israel because we believe, we know, that it is the right thing to do,” he said.