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Palestinian protesters chant slogans as they burn tires during a protest on the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, May 14, 2018. Thousands of Palestinians are protesting near Gaza's border with Israel, as Israel prepared for the festive inauguration of a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem.
Khalil Hamra/AP

At Least 58 Palestinians Were Killed in Gaza Protests This Week

Israeli snipers shot and killed at least 58 Palestinian protesters near a partition separating Israeli territory from the Gaza strip on Monday. At least 2,700 more Palestinians — including children, elderly people, and journalists — were injured by Israeli tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, according to Gaza’s ministry of health.

The demonstrations were a culmination of six weeks of protests, known as the “March of Return,” during which tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered to condemn poor living conditions in Gaza and demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to occupied lands. Throughout the protests, Palestinians prayed, burned tires, and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails (improvised fire bombs) at the partition. In response, Israeli soldiers launched tear gas canisters and fired live ammunition and rubber bullets into crowds.

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Multiple international humanitarian organizations condemned the violence on Monday — the deadliest day Palestinians have experienced since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict — and have accused the Israeli military of using “excessive force.”

Amnesty International called soldiers’ response to the protestors an “abhorrent violation of international law.”

Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, a spokesperson with Doctors Without Borders, called the violence “unacceptable and inhuman.”

“This bloodbath is the continuation of the Israeli army’s policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators, on the assumption that anyone approaching the separation fence is a legitimate target,” Ingres said in a statement.

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Many in the international community, including diplomats, have also condemned the Israeli military’s actions. The South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu called the killing of Palestinians “a massacre,” and Turkey expelled its Israeli ambassador.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, issued a statement saying that the secretary-general “is profoundly alarmed by the sharp escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and the high number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests.”

“Israel security forces must exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire,” Haq urged.

Israel has justified its use of force as self-defense, claiming that violent Palestinian attackers seek to invade Israeli territory.

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The Trump administration appeared to back Israel’s position, contradicting most of the international community. White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah called the violence a “gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” by Hamas, the ruling political party and militant faction in Gaza, and the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, blocked a Security Council statement calling for an independent investigation into Palestinian deaths.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu attended ceremonies Monday celebrating the United States moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, calling it “a great day for peace,” but did not directly address the violence happening less than 50 miles away. The relocation of the embassy has been widely criticized by world leaders as counterproductive to efforts to establish peace, since Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The opening of the embassy, as well as the end of the organized protests in Gaza, were scheduled to coincide with Tuesday’s 70th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel, which Palestinians call the Nakba, or "Catastrophe." In commemoration of the Nakba, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called for a day of mourning, as well as for a general strike across the Palestinian territories to honor those killed during protests.

During the past six weeks of protests, around 100 Palestinians were killed and more than 12,000 injured. Israel said that one Israeli solider was "lightly injured" by a rock or shrapnel in Monday's clashes, according to The Telegraph.

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