VIDEO: VIOLENCE IN GAZA: PALESTINIANS PREPARE TO BURY 58 AFTER CLASHES WITH ISRAELDate: 2018-05-15
It was the deadliest day of violence in Gaza since a war in 2014.
58 people were killed on Monday after Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinian protesters.
Funerals are being held today, which coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba – a mass displacement of Palestinians after Israel's creation.
Monday's violence erupted as the US inaugurated its first embassy in Jerusalem. The controversial decision by US President Donald Trump broke with decades of US policy, incensing Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The move by the US has been seen as a backing of Israeli control over the whole of the city, which Israel regards as its indivisible capital.
Israel's military said it was preparing for further confrontations on Tuesday but Palestinian groups said they intended to rein in the protests. Officials from Palestine, condemning the incident as a massacre, said that around 2,700 people were injured in Monday's violence.
Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said that his military was acting in self-defence against Hamas, Gaza's Islamist rulers, who he says want to destroy Israel.
The United Nations human rights office, however, was heavily critical of Israel's use of force. In Geneva on Tuesday spokesman, Rupert Colville, said, "The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot.
"How much threat can a double amputee be making from the other side of a large fortified fence?"
Branded the "Great March of Return", Palestinians have been demonstrating for seven weeks as part of a protest orchestrated in part by Hamas.
Monday marked the anniversary of Israel's creation in 1948, that incited a war and caused hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes.
The opening of the US embassy was the spark that ignited the protest which, according to Israel, has seen "40,000 Palestinians taking part in violent riots at 13 locations along Israel's security fence along Gaza's eastern border" over the past weeks.
Israeli snipers fired live ammunition and used tear gas dispersed from drones as Palestinian protesters hurled stones and other burning objects as they approached the border fence.
Mr Netanyahu defended the military action. "Every country has an obligation to defend its borders," he said.
"The Hamas terrorist organisation declares its intention to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal," he said. "We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and our citizens."
Although Hamas, who is in a permanent state of conflict with the Jewish state, did not initiate the protests, they have become the driving force since – calling for Israel's destruction. At the end of March, their leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, told the press that the demonstrations were aimed at removing what he called the "transient border" with Israel.
According to a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), "soldiers had fired on people carrying out terrorist activity and not on demonstrators, who were dispersed by usual means such as tear gas and according to the rules of engagement".
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced three days of mourning, saying: "Today once again, the massacres against our people continue."
Abbas, called the new embassy "a US settlement in East Jerusalem", saying that it violates international law and breaks with decades of US policy.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, and see the US move as backing Israeli control over the whole of the city.
According to the BBC, "The Gaza Strip is a narrow piece of land along the Mediterranean coast between Israel and Egypt, about 40km (25 miles) long and 10km wide. It is home to about 1.8 million Palestinians, making it the third most densely populated place in the world.
"The shape of the strip was defined by ceasefire lines with Egypt at the end of the 1948-9 Arab-Israeli war.
"Egypt administered Gaza for the next 19 years but Israel occupied it in the 1967 Arab-Israel war. It withdrew its forces and settlers in 2005 but the UN still considers the territory occupied because Israel retains control over the territory's airspace, coastal waters and shared border.
"Politically, Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which Israel, and other powers, regards as a terrorist group. Since 2007, Israel and Egypt have enforced a sea and air blockade, controlling the flow of commercial goods, and people in and out of the strip. They say it is for their own security.
"The Gaza Strip is impoverished and the UN has warned it is on the verge of total collapse.
"In 2014, a 50-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians died."
How has the world reacted?
- White House spokesman, Raj Shah, said: "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas... Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response"
- Kuwait drafted a UN Security Council statement calling for an independent inquiry into the violence, expressing "outrage and sorrow", but this was blocked by the US
- The UK said "the large volume of live fire is extremely concerning", calling on protesters to act peacefully
- Germany said Israel had the right to defend itself but should do so proportionately
- France's President Emmanuel Macron condemned violence by the Israeli military
- Russia said it was watching closely, adding that the Palestinian death toll "cannot but provoke the deepest concern"
- Turkey said the US shared responsibility with Israel for a "vile massacre" and that it was recalling its ambassadors from both countries
- South Africa also recalled its ambassador to Israel, condemning "the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack"
Check out the video below for more.