Tension in Gaza as Palestinians begin to bury 58 dead

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Funerals are being held in Gaza for 58 people killed on Monday when Israeli troops opened fire during Palestinian protests, in the deadliest day of violence there since a war in 2014.

The burials coincide with the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba – a mass displacement of Palestinians after Israel’s creation.

Israel’s military said it was preparing for further confrontations on Tuesday.

But Palestinian groups indicated they intended to rein in the protests.

Monday’s violence came as the US inaugurated its first embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial move that broke with decades of US policy and incensed Palestinians.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state and see the US move as backing Israeli control over the whole of the city – which Israel regards as its indivisible capital.

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Gaza’s deadly day in pictures

Palestinian officials said that, as well as those killed, about 2,700 people had been injured in Monday’s violence – which they condemned as a massacre.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his military was acting in self-defence against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, who seek to destroy Israel. Israel’s military said it had only fired at “targets of terrorist activity”.

The UN human rights office was heavily critical of Israel’s use of force.

“The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot,” spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“How much threat can a double amputee be making from the other side of a large fortified fence?” he asked.

At Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital, men were queuing on Tuesday to give blood. They wanted to help the many wounded in Monday’s violence.

Inside the hospital, there were many with gunshot wounds. Across Gaza, families were burying their dead. By midday there were no reports of new demonstrations.

There was shock in Gaza at the scale of the killing. The right of return to lands they lost is a highly emotional issue for Palestinians but people here questioned whether it was worth staging such a protest after the terrible death toll.

In fact, this was an incident waiting to happen. Tension has been rising for weeks in Gaza. People here have been impoverished by a goods blockade imposed by Israel and by Egypt, which shuns Hamas because of its links with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The only way of stopping more violence and death is to work seriously to settle the conflict. But that is not happening.

What happened at the Gaza border?

Palestinians were demonstrating on Monday as they have been for seven weeks, as part of a protest orchestrated in part by Hamas and branded the “Great March of Return”.

Monday’s protests were timed to mark the anniversary of Israel’s creation in 1948 and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who subsequently fled their homes or were displaced in the war that followed.

BBC.