Israeli soldiers killed 55 Palestinians protesting along the border fence in Gaza and injured more than 2,771 on Monday, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. This marks the highest death toll on a single day since the 2014 war.
Palestinians throughout Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem were urged to protest President Donald Trump’s controversial and unilateral decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday. More than 40,000 people marched along the fence in Gaza, according to Haaretz.
The opening of the new embassy fell on Israel’s independence day, and one day before Palestinians mark Nakba Day (or day of catastrophe), recalling the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.
Monday also marks the deadliest day for Palestinians since the start of their “Great March to Return” protests began on March 30 at what Israel and the United States recognize as a border between Israeli and Palestinian territories.
Hadeel Louz, 25, is a Palestinian human rights activist in Gaza who has been attending the protests in recent weeks and on Monday.
“We didn’t have anything with us but water, to drink,” she said. Along with her family, Louz was among tents roughly 500 meters (0.3 miles) away from the border fence when she saw people around her being shot.
With her voice shaking, Louz said her 16-year-old neighbor, Nouh al Najr, was among those shot.
“I just heard he will have to have his leg cut off,” she said, adding that Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian journalist killed in April, was a close friend of hers.
“He was only holding just his camera — so what was his fault?” she asked.
Despite crackdowns from the Israeli armed forces being the norm, Louz said the community is taken aback by the ferocity of the recent response.
“It is shocking. We didn’t expect this huge number of martyrs and injuries,” she told ThinkProgress on Monday. “Most of the martyrs who are killed are just normal citizens — we are not following Hamas party or Fatah party,” she said, referring to two Palestinian factions. “Even those who follow those parties, they are not in an army — they don’t have guns.”
Photos show protesters setting tires ablaze and using slingshots.
The U.N. Human Rights office expressed outrage at the killings, Tweeting out a statement from High Commissioner Zeid Ra’
“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now. The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The int'l community needs to ensure justice for victims” – #Zeid. pic.twitter.com/hBb7825Sp8
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) May 14, 2018
Human Rights group Amnesty International has condemned Israel’s violent response to the protesters, noting that children are among the dead:
We are witnessing an abhorrent violation of international law & human rights in #Gaza. 38 confirmed dead, including 6 children, with close to 2000 people injured. Many are reporting injuries to the head and chest. Over 500 injured with live ammunition. This must end immediately.
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) May 14, 2018
Reuters noted that among the dead were also a medic and a man in a wheelchair, who had been earlier photographed using a slingshot. Israeli forces, meanwhile, said that three of those who were killed on Monday had planted explosives near a fence along the southern Gaza strip.
In a speech celebrating the opening of the embassy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called this deadly day for Palestinians a “great day for peace,” and waxed nostalgic about his boyhood in the area with its “charming houses” and “many open fields.” While noting Jewish history in the area, Netanyahu never mentioned the Palestinians who had lived there for centuries.
Triumphant, Netanyahu exclaimed: “The Temple Mount is in our hands!…We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay!”
The U.N. Security Council condemned Israel’s response to the protests on Monday. The United States, however, blocked a resolution urging restraint.
President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a contested city that is the subject of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, was strongly condemned by the majority of United Nations in December. Member states asked that the decision be reversed.
Additional protests are planned elsewhere in the world on Monday by a number of groups, including IfNotNow in the United States, which includes young Jews and Rabbinical students.
While members of the president’s family — including his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner — are attending the opening of the new embassy, which is in a temporary location pending the construction of a permanent facility, Trump himself will not be attending the opening, as he had hinted he might do in late April.
He did, however, congratulate Israel on Twitter.
Big day for Israel. Congratulations!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a move seen by the international community as legitimizing Israel’s claim on the city. It has also subverted the role of the United States as an impartial arbitrator in negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.