Palestinians followed through with their vow to protest massively along the Gaza border Monday with tens of thousands demonstrating and 62 killed by Israeli fire as clashes erupted over the controversial inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
The death toll made it the deadliest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza war, reports AFP.
The 41, including a 14-year-old, were shot dead by Israeli forces as clashes broke out at five points along the Gaza border hours before the opening of the embassy.
The Israeli army said that more than 35,000 people were involved in the protests and clashes.
It accused Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas of leading a “terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people”.
The Palestinian Authority government based in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, accused Israel of carrying out a “terrible massacre”.
Palestinians threw stones, rolled burning tyres towards the border and tried to approach the fence to damage it and potentially break through, with Israeli snipers firing from the other side.
Bilal Fasayfes, 31, was getting on a free bus to the border with his wife and two children in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis.
“If half the people die we won’t care,” he said.
“We will keep going so the other half can live with dignity.”
- ‘Remove the embassy’ –
Israeli warplanes also struck a Hamas base close to the border, the army said, saying forces had come under fire.
The army also said it killed three Palestinians seeking to plant an explosive device. Hamas leaders had backed attempts to break through the border fence during the protest.
The protests were against the transfer of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
Demonstrators are also calling for Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation to be allowed to return to their homes now inside Israel.
The embassy was to be inaugurated at 4:00 pm (1300 GMT).
Palestinians have been infuriated by US President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as they consider the eastern part of the city their capital.
More than 91 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests and clashes began along the Gaza border on March 30.
No Israelis have been wounded and the military has faced criticism over the use of live fire.
Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, attacks and damage to the border fence, while accusing Hamas of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
In Khan Yunis, groups of masked young men, some carrying wooden bats, walked between shops forcing them to close to respect a general strike.
Muataz al-Najjar, 18, who was wounded four times in the last seven weeks, once from a bullet and the others from gas cannisters, said he hoped to break through the fence.
“We will return and the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv will be prevented.”
East of Gaza City, Umm Saab Habib, 60, said she was taking part “to tell Trump to remove the embassy from Jerusalem and we are returning to Jerusalem”.
At Shifa Hospital, where doctors say they are running low on crucial supplies and being forced to discharge patients early to make space for the next wave, a large tent was erected in front of the emergency room.
Faris Abu Hajaras, 50, said his family was from Jaffa, now within Israel, but he had never been there. He is a builder but said Israel’s blockade of Gaza meant there was no work.
“We will stay peaceful with our hands like this,” he said, lifting them to the sky. “But death comes from God.”