(JERUSALEM) — Israeli troops killed two Palestinians and injured hundreds at the Gaza boundary fence on Tuesday as residents buried dozens of Palestinians who were shot and killed by Israeli forces a day earlier, Palestinian authorities said.
As the U.S. opened its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, Palestinians saw the deadliest day since the Gaza war in 2014. Israeli forces fired tear gas and live fire at Palestinian protesters, killing at least 60, including eight children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 2,700 Palestinians were injured, the ministry said.
Israel and the U.S. blamed Hamas, which rules Gaza, for the deaths, saying that Israel was defending its border.
“We started to line up altogether and then walk forward steps together. Then all I saw was smoke everywhere and people screaming,“ Wafa al-Udaini, a resident of Gaza who participated in Monday’s protests by the fence, told ABC News via text message.
Her cousin and her neighbor were killed by Israeli troops during the protest, she said.
She attended funerals Tuesday, and she says she plans to go back to the fence to demonstrate again on Wednesday.
Gaza was calmer on Tuesday, which for Palestinians marks what they refer to as “Nakba Day” — marking what they call the “catastrophe” of their expulsion when Israel was created 70 years ago. Prayers were followed by parades of Palestinians carrying flag-wrapped bodies high above their heads, chanting on the way to the cemetery. Gunshots were fired in the air.
Near the boundary fence, 51-year-old Nasser Ghurab and 18-year-old Bilal Hussein were killed by Israeli forces, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Palestinians have been protesting for the past six weeks as part of the “March of Return,” a demonstration calling for the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to areas that are today part of Israel.
Palestinian and Turkish leaders called Monday’s killings a “massacre” while the U.K. and France urged Israel to show restraint. The U.N.’s secretary-general said he was “profoundly alarmed” by the number of Palestinians killed.
“I am profoundly alarmed and concerned by the sharp escalation of violence and the number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests,” said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. “It is imperative that everyone shows the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life.”
At an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley denied that Monday’s deaths had anything to do with the U.S. decision to open its embassy in Jerusalem.
“Rather, the violence comes from those who reject the existence of the state of Israel in any location,” Haley said. “The location of the embassy has no bearing on the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders… It does not undermine the prospects for peace in any way.”
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