The death toll has touched 60 and over 2,700 have been injured
By Abhijan Choudhury/ The Dawn News/ May 15, 2018
As many as 60 Palestinians were killed and over 2,700 injured as massive protests shook Palestine against the shifting of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. An eight-month-old baby in eastern Gaza, who is reported to have died of tear gas inhalation, was among the victims. At least 6 of those killed were below 18 years, as were 200 of those injured. More than 80 women were among the injured as were 11 journalists.
Also, Israeli fighter jets are reported to have struck seven targets in the Gaza region on Monday.
Tens of thousands Palestinians took part in the protests, with rallies also taking place in the cities of Ramallah and Hebron. There were reports of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the city of Bethlehem as well. The opening of the US embassy coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, and takes places a day before Nakba (catastrophe) day on Tuesday – when Palestinians mark the expulsion of nearly 750,000 Palestinians following the establishment of Israel.
Arrests were also reported during the inauguration of the new embassy complex.
The fresh round of violence drew condemnation from around the world. “This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes, said Amnesty International, in a press statement, which also termed the shifting of the US embassy an act that “condones decades of violations by Israel, including the creation of illegal settlements, which constitute war crimes.”
The Red Cross and the United Nations Human Rights Office also condemned the bloodshed.
Fresh protests took place on Tuesday, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, as well as the culmination of the six week-long Great Return March. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for three days of mourning, condemning Israel’s actions as a “massacre.” He also called for a general strike. Many rallies are expected in several West Bank cities, including Ramallah. Schools, colleges and business establishments in East Jerusalem downed shutters on Tuesday to protest the killing of the Palestinians.
Global condemnation continued to pour in against Israel’s use of force on Monday. However, at the United Nations, the US blocked the adoption of a Security Council statement that called for an “independent and transparent investigation” into the killing of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border. The statement, circulated by Kuwait, was supposed to include an expression of rage and sorrow on behalf of the Security Council over Monday’s death toll. The US also joined Israel in blaming Hamas for the deaths.
In response to the violence, South Africa condemned the “violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces” and recalled its Ambassador to Israel. Turkey also recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the US and expelled the Israeli ambassador. China, Ireland, the UK and Jordan were among the other countries which expressed concern at the firing by the Israeli soldiers.
On Monday, the inauguration of the new embassy saw Jared Kushner, senior advisor to Donald Trump, saying that “those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “the truth is that Jerusalem has always been and will always will be the capital of the Jewish people, of the Jewish state.” US President Donald Trump, in a recorded message, said that the move has “been a long time coming” and that as a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to determine the location of its capital. Trump vowed to protect Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount.
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan compared the Palestinians being killed by Israeli forces to Nazis, saying the death toll in the Gaza protests “doesn’t indicate anything – just as the number of Nazis who died in the world war doesn’t make Nazism something you can explain or understand.”
Earlier, in Ramallah, the Palestinian authority (PA) spokesman had urged the international community to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and sought the international rejection and condemnation of the planned embassy relocation. In Gaza, Hamas said it was expecting thousands more to join the protests against the shifting of the embassy.
The shifting of the embassy had drawn the condemnation of European leaders, with most of the ambassadors from EU countries saying they would boycott the ceremony. France said that the shifting of the Embassy was tantamount to flouting international law. Saudi Prince Turk Al Faisal said in an interview that the shifting of the Embassy was a “terrible step.” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that despite all steps taken to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, East Jerusalem was the capital of Palestine. Egypt also on Monday strongly condemned what it said was Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civilians.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday tweeted that the opening of the new US embassy was “a day of great shame.”
“Israeli regime massacres countless Palestinians in cold blood as they protest in the world’s largest open air prison. Meanwhile, Trump celebrates move of U.S. illegal embassy and his Arab collaborators move to divert attention.”
Zarif likely was referring to Gulf Arab countries, which so far have remained largely silent on the deaths and the violence. The Arab League is likely to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the shifting of the embassy.
Meanwhile, Hundreds of students and participants attended a Nakba day commemoration in Tel Aviv University on monday. Lawmakers from the Joint List, a political alliance of Arab-dominated parties, joined them in the commemoration.
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said, “Today is a dark day for seekers of justice and peace – transferring the embassy to Jerusalem is a spit in the face of the international community, and critically impedes the chance of peace in the entire region.”