Dozens of Palestinians have been reported dead in violent confrontations between some 40,000 Gazans and Israeli troops. According to reports streaming out of the region, citing Palestinian health officials, more than 50 demonstrators have been killed as of 6 pm, local time.
According to the Times of Israel, the clashes represent the deadliest day in Gaza since a cross-border war erupted in 2014.
While the Israeli government and many supporters of the move are placing the blame on demonstrators they say are intentionally putting women and children in harm’s way and instigating violence, human rights advocacy groups are condemning Israel’s use of force as a disproportionate and gross violation of international norms.
Critics of Israel’s response have highlighted the mounting death toll, including children and unarmed protestors, while headlines in Israel report that terror operatives and some armed members of “Hamas-spurred” groups trying to “breach the border” were among the casualties.
“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
Violent clashes were widely anticipated in response to an official ceremony marking the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. The move, which followed US President Donald Trump’s decision in December of last year to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, has faced international criticism, with many leaders fearing it would lead to unrest.
The spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that Britain is concerned by the reports of violence, reiterating the country’s call to “avoid actions destructive to peace efforts.” Following Trump’s initial announcement that the US would move its embassy in December, May said in a statement that “we believe [the embassy move] is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.”
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also issued a statement urging restraint.
“France calls on all actors to show responsibility to prevent a new escalation,” Le Drian was quoted by Haaretz as saying in a statement. “France again calls on the Israeli authorities to exercise discernment and restraint in the use of force that must be strictly proportionate.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also reportedly lobbied the Trump administration alongside Macron and the European Union to abandon his campaign promise to relocate the embassy.
While Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were in Jerusalem as part of a large American delegation to attend the ceremony on Monday, the US president congratulated Israel via Twitter.
Big day for Israel. Congratulations!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Trump at the dedication ceremony, saying “Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” as reported by Haaretz. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said of Palestinian protestors that “those provoking violence are part of the problem, not solution.”