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Israeli snipers target protesters on Gaza 'day of rage,' kill scores

By PressTV | Last updated: May 15, 2018 - 12:59:29 PM

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Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians who have gathered near a Gaza fence for the climax of a six-week demonstration coinciding with the inauguration of U.S. embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds.

Clashes erupted along the fence May 14 between Palestinians and Israeli forces as protesters converged on the site for a “day of rage.”  

According to Gaza health officials, at least 52 Palestinians have been shot dead and over 2,400 wounded by Israeli snipers who are positioned along the fence, facing the protesters.

The Israeli army was expecting about 100,000 demonstrators to gather at main locations, coinciding with a gala in the afternoon to officially relocate U.S. embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds.

A disabled Palestinian protester hurls stones at Israeli troops during a protest at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, May 11. Gaza activists burned tires near the sealed border with Israel in a seventh weekly protest aimed at shaking off a decade-old blockade of their territory. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas volleys and guns from the other side of the border fence. Photo: AP/Wide World Photo

The death toll has drawn international criticism, but the United States which has angered Muslims with its embassy move, has supported Israel.

On May 13, the Israeli air force dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians not to approach the fence and threatening to target Hamas facilities in the besieged territory if protesters breached the barrier.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli aircraft also dropped flammable material on May 14 to burn tires that protesters had stacked to set on fire. The Israelis also fired tear gas at people inside the tented encampments that have sprung up along the fence.

Hardline education minister Naftali Bennett told Israel Radio that the regime would treat the Gaza fence as an “Iron Wall” and anyone who approached it as a “terrorist.”

The rallies known as the “Great March of Return” were due to climax on May 15, the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when Israel was created.

Every year on May 15, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate the day, which marks the anniversary of the forcible Israeli eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.

The daily Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli officer in the Southern Command as predicting that May 14 protests would be much more violent than those of the previous seven weeks as it coincided with the U.S. embassy relocation.

Israel doubled the number of forces around the Gaza Strip and in occupied West Bank territories ahead of the controversial embassy opening. On May 13, the regime deployed 11 battalions along the Gaza fence, including special forces, intelligence units and snipers.

Mourners carry the body of 15-year-old Palestinian Jamal Afaneh during his funeral in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, May 13. Afaneh died from his injuries after being shot by Israeli troops during the ongoing protest along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, May 11. Photo: AP/Wide World Photo

Additional combat battalions and intelligence units are to be deployed to the West Bank, the Israeli daily reported.

More than 1,000 Israeli settlers stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds on May 13, in a provocative act ahead of the U.S. embassy opening. 

The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since President Donald Trump announced on December 6 U.S. recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s so-called capital.

The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

 Kremlin: U.S. embassy opening adds fuel to Mideast tensions

The Kremlin said May 14 it feared the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem would increase tensions in the Middle East, Reuters reported.

“Yes, we have such fears,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call, when asked if the Kremlin was concerned the move could increase tensions in the wider region.

UN experts slam Israel’s ‘disproportionate use of force’

In a relevant development May 14, UN rights experts urged Israel to halt excessive use of force against peaceful Palestinian protesters, calling for an “impartial, independent investigation” into Israeli troops’ violence in occupied territories.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “alarmed by the disproportionate use of force displayed by the Israeli security forces against Palestinian demonstrators.”

The 18-member UN committee said it was “gravely concerned that many of the persons who died or were injured were reportedly posing no imminent threat at the time they were shot,” voicing alarm at “many reports according to which Israeli authorities have denied and continue to deny access to urgent medical treatment to injured Palestinians.”

The UN rights experts further stated that the deaths and injuries in occupied territories occurred “in a context marked by the 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territory” as well as a more than decade-long crippling blockade imposed on Gaza.

Palestinian govt.: Israel committing ‘terrible massacre’ in Gaza

Also May 14, the Palestinian government accused Israel of committing a “terrible massacre” of Palestinians in protests in Gaza Strip.

Palestinian government spokesman, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, demanded in a statement “an immediate international intervention to stop the terrible massacre in Gaza committed by the forces of the Israeli occupation against our heroic people.”

Turkey: U.S. embassy move encouraged massacre of Palestinians

Turkey on May 14 said the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds has encouraged Israeli forces to massacre Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Issuing a statement, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry added that the embassy move disregarded the rights of Palestinians, saying, “We curse the massacre carried out by Israeli security forces, encouraged by this step, on the Palestinians participating in peaceful demonstrations.”

Egypt condemns Israel for ‘targeting of Palestinian civilians’

Egypt has also strongly condemned Israel’s targeting of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, where peaceful demonstrators protesting U.S. embassy move were welcomed May 14 by Israeli forces’ live rounds and tear gas canisters.

“Egypt rejects the use of force against peaceful marches demanding legitimate and just rights, and warns of the negative consequences of this dangerous escalation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Amnesty: Gaza bloodshed ‘abhorrent violation’

Amnesty International said in a tweet on May 14 that the bloodshed along Gaza’s border fence with Israel was an “abhorrent violation” of human rights.

“We are witnessing an abhorrent violation of international law and human rights in Gaza. ... This must end immediately,” the London-based human rights group said on Twitter.

EU urges ‘utmost restraint’ after Gaza clashes

EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has urged Israel to show “utmost restraint” after at least 41 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during protests over U.S. embassy decision on May 14.

“Dozens of Palestinians, including children, have been killed and hundreds injured from Israeli fire today, during ongoing mass protests near the Gaza fence. We expect all to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life,” foreign policy chief Mogherini said in a statement.

Arab League: ‘Shameful’ countries celebrating U.S. embassy move

Arab League chief, Ahmed Abul Gheit, on May 14 slammed certain “shameful” countries, which he said were celebrating the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds.

“It is shameful to see countries participating with the U.S. and Israel in celebrating the former’s embassy move to occupied Jerusalem in a clear and grave violation of international law and (UN) Security Council resolutions,” said Mr. Abul Gheit.

Speaking in Cairo, where the Arab League is based, the official called on all countries to “refrain from taking any step that would harm the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Mr. Abul Gheit added that the U.S. embassy move “represents an extremely dangerous step” and “I don’t think the American administration realizes its real implications in the short and long terms.”

“The Palestinian side feels that the United States has abandoned its historic role as a credible mediator in this conflict, after Washington unfortunately revealed full bias towards the Israeli positions which consistently contradict international legitimacy and law.”

France tells Israel to show restraint

France’s foreign minister also reacted to the situation in Gaza May 14 calling on Israeli authorities to exercise restraint, adding that the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds flouted international law.

“France calls on all actors to show responsibility to prevent a new escalation,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement, adding, “France again calls on the Israeli authorities to exercise discernment and restraint in the use of force that must be strictly proportionate.”

Foreign minister Le Drian also denounced the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem as violation of “ international law and in particular UN Security Council resolutions.”

 UN human rights chief slams ‘shocking killing’ of Palestinians in Gaza

Also on May 14, the UN human rights chief, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, took to Twitter to condemn reckless killing of peaceful Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces.

“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in Gaza must stop now. The right to life must be respected,” he said.

Rights chief al-Hussein also called for punishment of those behind killing of Palestinians saying that “those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”

Arab League plans extraordinary meeting

The Arab League is preparing for an extraordinary session on May 16 to discuss Washington’s “illegal” move of relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds.

Egypt’s state news agency MENA also quoted an Arab diplomat as saying that permanent representatives to the Arab League will be participating in the event.

The meeting is convened with an aim “to counter the illegal decision taken by the United States of America to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem,” it added. (