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Israel defends Gaza crackdown as Palestinians bury their dead

Thousands of Palestinians gathered Tuesday for the grim task of burying the ...

Posted: May 16, 2018 3:57 AM
Updated: May 16, 2018 3:57 AM

Thousands of Palestinians gathered Tuesday for the grim task of burying the 60 protesters killed by Israeli troops at the Gaza border, as Israel faced international condemnation over the deaths.

Funerals took place across Gaza on Tuesday, a day after Israeli troops fired on Palestinians gathered at the border to protest the controversial relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 60 people were killed on Monday and another two died in clashes on Tuesday.

United Nations Secretary-General Ant-nio Guterres was "profoundly alarmed" by Israel's actions on Monday, a spokesman said. The British government called for an independent inquiry, expressing concern about the volume of live fire used by Israeli forces.

But the United States expressed strong backing for Israel, blaming the deaths on Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza and which encouraged the protests. "Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday," said Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations.

"I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?" Haley said at a UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday. She praised Israel for its "restraint" and accused Hamas of stoking violence "long before" the controversial decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The crackdown on protests in Gaza took place as 50 miles away in Jerusalem, a glossy ceremony marked the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.

Most of the dead were killed by Israeli fire, after troops used tear gas and live rounds to try to disperse several crowds, totaling about 35,000, as Palestinians gathered at the border.

More than 2,700 Palestinians suffered injuries in the clashes, nearly half of them due to live fire, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, which said Monday was the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war.

In separate phone calls Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized Israel's right to defend its sovereignty in response to concerns expressed by the leaders of France and Germany.

"Israel will protect its security interests," Netanyahu told French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, according to a readout of the statement from the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. "No country is prepared to allow threats against its sovereignty."

Disputes over tenor of protests

The Israeli Defence Forces, or IDF, said protesters were trying to storm the border fence between Israel and Gaza. It accused Hamas of "leading a terrorist operation" and inciting the protesters to conduct what Israel described as terror attacks.

The IDF said some protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and burned tires. It also said it foiled an attack by three armed Palestinians near Rafah, close to the border with Egypt, during "a particularly violent demonstration."

Netanyahu said in Monday's confrontations, "The determined action of the IDF and the security forces prevented a breach into Israel's borders."

Palestinian leaders said the protests were peaceful and the use of force was wholly disproportionate to the threat.

"What we see in Palestine is like the rise of new Intifada, a new popular uprising that is peaceful and nonviolent, but faced with the very criminal attitude of the Israeli army which is using all kinds of lethal weapons against peaceful demonstrators," the head of the Palestinian National Initiative and Palestinian parliamentary member, Mustafa Barghouti, told CNN.

The former head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, called for Arab and international solidarity.

"Our people, who are [rising] up in Gaza and the West Bank, call on our Arab and Islamic nation, its people, its leaders, scientists and friends in the world to stand with us at this historic moment," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Funerals across Gaza

Among the dead were eight children, including 8-month-old Laila Anwar Ghandour. At her funeral, her mother and father cradled her body, wrapped in a white shroud, before her father walked to the graveyard to bury her. Relatives said Laila was sitting in her mother's lap when the infant inhaled tear gas.

"They were sitting on the side. (Israeli troops) fired tear gas haphazardly. The baby girl couldn't take it and she died," said the girl's father, Anwar Ghandour.

"We're nearly done with our lives, but these poor kids have their whole lives ahead of them. What have they done wrong?" said Um Khalid al Ashram, a middle-aged Palestinian woman who was near the funeral procession.

The funerals came on a day Palestinians call "The Catastrophe" or "Nakba," in memory of the more than 700,000 Palestinians who were driven from or left their homes during the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war.

Shops in Gaza were closed and people could be heard talking about the dead. Images of the dead and short eulogies flooded Palestinian social media. CNN journalists on the ground said it appeared that nearly every neighborhood in Gaza had lost someone in Monday's demonstrations.

An amputee named Fadi Abu Salameh, also known as Fadi Abu Salah, was killed near the border fence in Khan Younis on Monday, the Palestinian Health Ministry told CNN.

Fadi, who was 28, lost both his legs in 2008, his brother Hani said on Tuesday. "He does not pose a threat to himself, no less others," Hani said. "How could he be targeted? His blood falls squarely on the shoulders of the Israelis." Photographs of Fadi in his wheelchair circulated on social media as news of his death spread.

At the protest encampments that dot Gaza's border with Israel, the numbers of demonstrators dwindled. Mosques and political factions that called on Palestinians to take to the border over the weekend were largely quiet on Tuesday.

Demonstrators also appeared skeptical that protests would continue. Several said they felt abandoned by political parties and protest organizers.

"It's enough death. Those who died, it's enough," said Mahmoud Yasser Mohammed, a demonstrator who stayed at the camps overnight.

"All the youth are just coming down to take selfies. There is no point. We cut the fence and opened the way and everyone was too scared to cross and the Israelis started firing on us," said another demonstrator, Sayed Abu Nada.

While Tuesday's protests in Gaza were more subdued than Monday, hundreds of Palestinians rallied to mark the Nakba in cities across the West Bank.

In Bethlehem, some 240 Palestinians marched toward an Israeli outpost when Israeli military and border police fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to disperse the crowd. Some youth threw stones at Israeli troops as clashes continued.

Clashes were also reported in Al Bireh, north of Ramallah.

International reaction

Condemnation poured in from around the world over Israel's use of force. In London, Alistair Burt, the British government minister with responsibility for the Middle East, said the UK was working "urgently" with the UN to establish an independent investigation.

"The United Kingdom has been clear in calling for, urgently, a need to establish the facts of what happened, including why such a volume of live fire was used. We are supportive of an independent, transparent investigation," Burt told the House of Commons.

In his Tuesday night phone call with Netanyahu, the French President also condemned the violence of Israeli forces against protesters and stressed "the importance of protecting the civilian population and the right to demonstrate peacefully," an -lys-e Palace source in France said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed concerns about the escalation of violence, her spokesman said. She said she understands "the security concerns of Israel," according to her spokesman, but she added that "the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly should not be abused to provoke unrest."

In a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "condemned the attacks and wished Allah's mercy to all martyrs," according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Turkey recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Tel Aviv for consultations, Anadolu reported.

At the United Nations, the deputy spokesman for Guterres, the secretary-general, said he urged Israeli forces to "exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire."

The United States blocked a UN resolution condemning Israel, a UN diplomat told CNN. The draft statement, seen by CNN, included language expressing "outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest."

It also reaffirmed UN resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, saying that recent events had "no legal effect" under international law. The statement was withdrawn once the United States indicated that it would block it, a UN diplomat said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 503322

Reported Deaths: 10057
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34400541
DeSoto32318411
Hinds32074631
Jackson24551386
Rankin22103391
Lee15657235
Madison14662281
Jones13894243
Forrest13506253
Lauderdale12037318
Lowndes11091192
Lamar10531138
Pearl River9557238
Lafayette8581140
Hancock7751130
Washington7458161
Oktibbeha7152133
Monroe6796178
Warren6752176
Pontotoc6736104
Neshoba6656206
Panola6572131
Marshall6494135
Bolivar6331150
Union607794
Pike5849154
Alcorn5691102
Lincoln5468135
George502979
Scott474198
Tippah472481
Prentiss471582
Leflore4676144
Itawamba4651105
Tate4632111
Adams4617120
Copiah450092
Simpson4458116
Yazoo445388
Wayne440772
Covington429894
Sunflower4246105
Marion4236108
Coahoma4178108
Leake409888
Newton383179
Grenada3731108
Tishomingo361592
Stone360664
Jasper336565
Attala335290
Winston315391
Clay309077
Chickasaw302367
Clarke295894
Calhoun279947
Holmes268788
Smith266550
Yalobusha237247
Tallahatchie228752
Greene220649
Walthall219364
Lawrence213640
Perry206456
Amite206056
Webster203446
Noxubee186940
Montgomery179757
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169639
Tunica160139
Benton149439
Kemper142141
Choctaw134627
Claiborne132838
Humphreys129738
Franklin120728
Quitman106828
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson95934
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 821255

Reported Deaths: 15424
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1149051930
Mobile726651340
Madison52400699
Shelby37685350
Baldwin37285552
Tuscaloosa35147613
Montgomery34130740
Lee23556246
Calhoun22255490
Morgan21037378
Etowah19844500
Marshall18390304
Houston17406412
St. Clair16091339
Cullman15493293
Limestone15402199
Elmore15292286
Lauderdale14366295
Talladega13870283
DeKalb12670261
Walker11255370
Blount10227176
Autauga10061148
Jackson9909185
Coffee9215191
Dale8912186
Colbert8907201
Tallapoosa7103198
Escambia6782134
Covington6724183
Chilton6658162
Russell637659
Franklin5992105
Chambers5615142
Marion5016127
Dallas5013202
Pike4799106
Clarke477284
Geneva4577127
Winston4538103
Lawrence4352117
Bibb425686
Barbour358376
Marengo338390
Monroe332064
Randolph330264
Butler328596
Pickens317384
Henry313166
Hale311988
Cherokee303260
Fayette294580
Washington251651
Cleburne247960
Clay245568
Crenshaw245475
Macon235563
Lamar225747
Conecuh186654
Coosa180940
Lowndes175764
Wilcox169139
Bullock151844
Perry139240
Sumter133338
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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