Funerals held as Palestinians mark the anniversary of the ‘Nakba’, or catastrophe
Funerals are to be held in Gaza for the 58 people killed by Israeli forces as tens of thousands protested along the frontier against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, The Guardian reports.
The funerals were expected to take place in the coastal enclave on Tuesday, coinciding with the day Palestinians mark the “Nakba”, or catastrophe, commemorating the more than 700,000 people who fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Khaled Batch, the head of the grassroots organising committee of the Gaza protests, said Tuesday would be a day for funerals, suggesting there were no plans for further border marches after the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war. Israeli media reported that some tents where protesters had been gathering at the border have been taken down.
The violent scenes on Monday contrasted sharply with the glossy inauguration of Washington’s new mission about 60 miles away in an affluent Jerusalem neighbourhood. The US president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, celebrated the opening to clapping and cheering from American and Israeli VIPs.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, joined the US in blaming Hamas, the Palestinian ruling faction in Gaza, for the deaths. He defended his country’s use of force, saying “every country has the obligation to defend its borders”.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, condemned “the violence of the Israeli armed forces against protesters” in a telephone call with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. He also reaffirmed criticism of the US decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
Anger at Trump’s December declaration on the embassy helped to ignite the six-week protest movement. To international condemnation, Israeli snipers have regularly fired on demonstrators in past rallies.
At the ceremony in Jerusalem, Washington’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and said: “Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump.” The crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.
The only direct reference to the bloodshed came from Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who said: “As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.”
Trump, who had tweeted that Monday was a “great day for Israel”, did not attend the embassy opening but spoke in a video message, saying he extended “a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbours. May there be peace.”
In Washington, the White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, was repeatedly challenged to condemn the Israeli response. “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he told reporters. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.”
The Israel Defence Forces said in a statement: “The rioters are hurling firebombs and explosive devices towards the security fence and IDF forces, and are burning tyres, throwing rocks and launching flaming objects in order to ignite fires in Israeli territory and harm IDF troops.”
Turkey said it would recall its ambassadors to the US and Israel, and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, described Israel’s actions as “genocide”. South Africa also recalled its ambassador in protest at the “violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces”.
The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, decried Monday’s “shocking killing of dozens”, saying “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account”.
Kuwait requested an emergency meeting of the UN security council. Diplomats later told Agence France-Presse the US had blocked the request.
Trump’s decision to move the embassy and recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel dismayed Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The holy city has been one of the most contentious issues in past negotiations, and broad international consensus has been that its status will be settled under a peace deal, although Trump has said Jerusalem is now “off the table”.
Many Israelis have praised the decision to move the diplomatic mission. The Friends of Zion Museum has put up posters in Jerusalem saying: “Make Israel Great Again” and US flags have been hung from buildings in the city.