The United Nations human rights office has warned of the risk of renewed violence in Gaza on Tuesday as Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the mass displacement of Palestinians after Israel’s creation. Sixty Palestinians were killed in one day, May 14, 50 of whom were claimed by Hamas members, an organization regarded as terrorist by Europe and the United States, by fire from Israeli Defence Forces (Haaretz).
Burials are taking place of dozens of people (The Guardian) killed by Israeli forces. The victims were demonstrating at the border of the fenced enclave against the U.S. unveiling of its controversial new embassy in Jerusalem, as part of the six-week-long Palestinian ‘Great March of Return’ campaign, and to mark the Nakba.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said his forces were acting in self-defence against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas. “The Hamas terrorist organization declares it intends to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Israeli military said it was gearing up for renewed confrontations, while Palestinian groups said they planned to rein in the protests.
Israeli armed forces killed at least 60 Palestinians and wounded over 2,700 more in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and several news reports (The Guardian; Reuters; BBC), making May 14 the deadliest day of violence since the 2014 Gaza war. Demonstrators gathered at several locations on the fenced enclave’s border.
The UN said Israel had a right to defend itself but was strongly critical of its use of lethal force on Palestinians approaching Gaza’s fenced perimeter. “The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot,” said UN spokesman Rupert Colville.
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The Palestinian Authority’s leader condemned the action as a “massacre” and the UN has called it “outrageous human rights violations.”
Tens of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators defied Israeli military warnings and took to the streets to voice their opposition to U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s decision, announced earlier this year (read more WikiTribune coverage), and in anticipation of the Nakba anniversary.
“Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever,” a Palestinian demonstrator told Reuters. “Many may get martyred today, so many, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end.”
A senior Hamas leader, Khalil Al-Hayya, told Reuters that Monday’s protest was scheduled at the same time as the “deplorable crime of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.”
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Trump’s move has sparked a powerful reaction from Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel regards the city as its indivisible capital.
Trump’s decision garnered little international support and much criticism, including from close allies such as France and the UK. In December 2017, a United Nations Security Council resolution dealt a symbolic blow to the United States’s decision after all members but the U.S. voted for a withdrawal of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (The Guardian).
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- April and early May – Israeli forces kill dozens of protesters and alleged Hamas members, and wound thousands more, in several clashes along Gaza’s border fence.
- March 30 – Several Palestinian groups, among them Western-proscribed groups like Hamas, launch a six-week protest-driven campaigns called the “Great March of Return”. Among the main demands are permission for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to be allowed back to what is now Israel; opposition to the Gaza blockade; and opposition to Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Israeli forces kill 23 Palestinians protestors and wound over 1,400 more, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
- December 18 – A UN security council resolution calling on the withdrawal of recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is vetoed by the U.S. for a tally of 14–1.
- December 13 – Over 50 Muslim-majority countries gathered at an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit reject and condemn Trump’s decision and call for “an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its occupied capital”.
- December 7 – The UN security council holds an emergency meeting where 14 of 15 members condemn Trump’s decision as a violation of international law.
- December 6 – Trump announces decision to officially relocate U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.