Israelis kill more than 50 Palestinians in Gaza protests, health officials say
May 14 at 3:52 PM Email the author
ZEITOUN, Gaza Strip â" Israeli forces killed 55 Palestinians on the boundary fence with Gaza on Monday, local health officials said, a level of bloodshed not seen since the most violent days of Israelâs 2014 war in the territory.
The death toll doubled the number of Palestinians killed during six weeks of demonstrations, dubbed the âMarch of Return,â and came on the same day that a new U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians had gathered on the edges of the fenced off blockaded territory from mid-morning. Many came to peacefully demonstrate, bringing their children, carrying flags. Food stalls sold snacks and music blared.
But the protests appeared to have a more violent edge than in previous weeks. Some young men brought knives and fence cutters. At a gathering point east of Gaza City, organizers urged protestors over loudspeakers to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them.
Israeli snipers were determined not to allow a breach, and ambulances soon began screaming back and forth from the fence, as gunshots rang out over the crowd. No Israeli soldiers were injured, though, and Israel drew widespread condemnation for an excessive use of force.
More than 2,400 people were injured, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, including 1,200 from live ammunition.Full Screen Autoplay Close Skip Ad Ã Gaza protests turn deadly as U.S. Embassy opens in Jerusalem View Photos Cap tion Israeli soldiers killed at least 28 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence and wounded more than 1,600 in the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war with Israel. Buy Photo Wait 1 second to continue.
The United Nations said that âthose responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account,â and Human Rights Watch described the killings as a âbloodbath.â Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned a continuing âmassacreâ of the Palestinian people. Both Turkey and South Africa announced they were recalling their ambassadors from Israel.
It was jarring contrast with the star-studded opening ceremony for the embassy in Jerusalem, which drew first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
Hamas has given its backing to the demonstrations, which have galvanized people around a call to protest the loss of Palestinian homes and villages when Israel was formed in 1948.
Pales tinians mark that day â" known as the ânakbaâ or âcatastropheâ â" on Tuesday, when more demonstrations are planned. More than two-thirds of Gazaâs population is descended from refugees who were displaced at the time of Israelâs creation.
At Gaza Cityâs main al-Shifaa hospital, medics said they were overwhelmed.
âI don't know how we will manage,â said Ayman al-Sahbani, the head of the emergency department, as families jostled to get in to see injured relatives. âHow long can this go on? How long?"
The hospital had set up a new additional 30-bed triage area outside, and earlier in the day said it had the capacity to treat 200 or 300 serious gunshot wounds. It had received around 400 injured by around 6.pm., and most of those had been shot, he said.
âWeâve reached the critical point now,â he said. âA lot of people need operations soon, but the operation room is full.â
Palestinian women suffering from teargas inhalation sit in a medical aid tent during a protest near Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. (Dusan Vranic/AP)
Increasing economic hardship has fuelled frustrations in Gaza, along with wider despair across Palestinian territories amid moves by a U.S. administration seen as wholeheartedly on Israelâs side of the decades-old conflict.
At the demonstrations east of Gaza, some said the force used by Israel would only bring further unrest.
Standing a few hundred meters from the fence, Nirma Attalah, 29, said her 22-year-old brother had been killed two weeks ago. "My brother was shot in the head in this place," she said. She had come on Monday with her whole extended family. âWe are here for Jerusalem, for Palestinian land,â she said.
A truck rolled past carrying young men chanting: âTo Jerusalem we go with mil lions of martyrsâ and âDeath rather than humiliation.â
âPeople have come out of the rubble to say we will not forget our rights,â said Yousef Abu Saleh, 25. âThe American administration is adopting the Israeli story and stealing our right of return.â
While some said they would abide by official calls to keep the demonstrations peaceful, others talked about their enthusiasm to break into Israel and wreak havoc.
âWe are excited to storm and get inside,â said 23-year-old Mohammed Mansoura. When asked what he would do inside Israel, he said, âWhatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.â
Two other young men carried large knives and said they wanted to kill Jews on the other side of the fence.
The Israeli military brought in two extra brigades to the Gaza border in preparation for the demonstrations and added additional âdefense linesâ in an effort to prevent any mass invasion into Israeli communities near the border.
The military said at least 35,000 people protested in 12 different places along the fence - more than twice as many locations as in past weeks of protest.
âEspecially violent riotsâ took place near the southern Gazan city of Rafah,where three people were killed after trying to plant an explosive, the military added. The military also said it would âact forcefully against any terrorist activity,â and it carried out an airstrike on Hamas military posts in northern Gaza after Israeli troops came under fire.
At demonstrations near the Bureij Camp in central Gaza, Ahmed Loulou, 22, released a cluster of balloons carrying a Palestinian flag. In marker heâd written: âWe are returning. This is our land.â The load was briefly caught in a power line before bobbing unsteadily towards the border.
He said it was his first time at the demonstrations and had been persuaded to come.
Meanwhile, young men launched stones from slingshots as they sheltered behind earthen berms. Shortly afterwards, the sound of live ammunition zinged through the air.
A Palestinian man throws leaflets dropped Monday by the Israeli military during a protest against the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)
But Israelis werenât the only ones shooting. Near a parking area, a man pulled out an AK-47 and took aim at an Israeli drone dropping leaflets. He let off a stream of bullets into the air and brought it down. Later, more gunfire ensued as different Palestinian factions argued who would keep the downed drown, onlookers said.
As the death toll neared 50, loudspeakers called for protesters to leave the border area. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya was called to Cairo on Sunday night in an apparent attempt to persuade the militant group to quell the demonstrations. No agreement was made, said Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nounou, as he attended the protests. âThey understood our points. Our people are showing their solidarity with Jerusalem today, and showing their anger with the U.S. administration.â
The demonstrations have proved to be a welcome distraction for Hamas, refocusing anger against Israel as frustration built against the group in Gaza.
In a press conference as evening fell, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayaa, said the protests would continue.
âThis blood will keep boiling until the occupation leaves forever,â he said.
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