52 Palestinians killed in Israeli fire during mass Gaza protests
GAZA/JERUSALEM: Israeli fire killed at least 52 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border on Monday, marking the deadliest day of violence there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and casting a pall over Israel’s festive inauguration of the new US Embassy in contested Jerusalem.In a show of anger fuelled by the embassy move, protesters set tires on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. The Israeli military said its troops had come under fire, and accused protesters of trying to break through the border fence. It said troops shot and killed three Palestinians who were trying to plant a bomb.The US move fulfilled a pledge by President Donald Trump, who has recognised the holy city as the Israeli capital, but it has fired Palestinian anger and drawn criticism from many foreign governments as a set back to peace efforts.At the embassy inauguration ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises”. “What a glorious day for Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.” Trump, in a recorded message, said he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.On the Gaza border, Palestinian protests quickly turned into bloodshed. Israeli gunfire killed at least 52 Palestinians, the highest toll in a single day since a series of protests demanding the right to return to ancestral homes in Israel began on March 30.A Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman said the dead included six children under the age of 18. Health officials said 900 Palestinians were wounded.France called on Israel to show restraint and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the events in Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians had streamed to the coastal enclave’s land border, some approaching the Israeli fence, a line Israeli leaders said Palestinians would not be allowed to breach. Clouds of black smoke from tyres set alight by demonstrators rose in the air.Demonstrators, some armed with slingshots, hurled stones at the Israeli security forces, who fired volleys of tear gas and intense rounds of gunfire. “Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever,” said Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name.Trump’s recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December outraged Palestinians, who said the United States could no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process with Israel. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.