The protest movement is demanding that Israel allow the millions of Palestinians whose families left or were forcibly removed from Israel at its founding in 1948 to return. Refugees and their descendants make up more than two-thirds of Gaza’s population.
A total of 107 people have been killed and around 12,300 others wounded since the protests began on March 30, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Israeli troops opened fire on protesters approaching the razor-wire fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Monday. The military accused militant group Hamas — which has ruled Gaza since it won elections in 2006 — of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people.” Israel said its forces were defending the border.
Monday’s toll included a baby who died after inhaling tear gas, according to health officials in Gaza. They said more than 2,700 Palestinians were wounded, including 1,359 hurt by live ammunition.
The White House blamed Hamas for the deaths, but the United Nations agency in Gaza expressed “dismay” at “the excessive use of force” against demonstrators.
Gaza bleeds. The shock & alarm at number of Palestinians killed & injured is profound. Never since 2014 Gaza conflict had so many civilian lives been lost in the Strip. World cannot turn its back on so much suffering. This concerns us all!
— Pierre Krähenbühl (@PKraehenbuehl) May 14, 2018
Doctors Without Borders compared the scale of the bloodshed with the 2014 war.
Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the aid group’s representative in the Palestinian territories, said: “It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time … This bloodbath is the continuation of the Israeli army’s policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators, on the assumption that anyone approaching the separation fence is a legitimate target. Most of the wounded will be condemned to suffer lifelong injuries.”
“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
Hundreds of children, some as young as eight years old, have been shot by live ammunition since March 30, according to an analysis carried out by aid group Save the Children.
The Israeli military estimated a turnout of about 40,000 at Monday’s protest, adding Tuesday that its aircraft struck 11 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, while tanks targeted another two Hamas posts. It said that Palestinian protesters used 10 explosive devices and firebombs against troops and that shots were fired at soldiers positioned along the barrier.
The IDF will continue to prevent mass terror attacks, which have largely been orchestrated by the Hamas terror organization. All terror activity will be met with a harsh response. IDF troops will continue to defend Israel & its civilians
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 14, 2018
Israel built the 40-mile fence for security reasons in 1994. Israeli officials are eager to prevent a breach massive breach of the barrier and potential attacks in communities on the other side. They have warned Palestinians to keep well away.
Monday’s protest coincided with moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — reflecting the Trump administration’s recognition of that city as the capital of Israel. The decision breaks with decades of U.S. policy and distances Washington from its allies. Palestinians also consider Jerusalem their capital.
Marchers say they have continued to turn out for the weekly demonstrations because they have so little to lose. More than a decade under Israeli and then Egyptian blockades has left the enclave’s 2 million people, particularly its youth, largely jobless and hopeless.
In Gaza, fresh water is unsanitary and the seas are polluted with raw sewage. Power lasts as little as four hours a day while medical care and education are abysmal.
Peace seems increasingly far off and, for most Gazans, gaining permission to leave is impossible without solid education or job opportunities abroad.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urged the international community to condemn what he said were “massacres” carried out by Israeli troops in Gaza.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure, said the mass border protests would continue “until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved.”