At least 58 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 wounded by Israeli gunfire on Monday as protest spread across Gaza in the bloodiest day in the strip since the 2014 war.
According to the Great March of Return organizers, around 50,000 protesters were gathered along the Gaza border as the new U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem.
The casualty figures rose rapidly, as the opening the new American embassy at 4 p.m. local time. Gaza’s health ministry reported that five minors were included among the injuries, and 116 people still considered in critical condition.
The toll number of fatalities since seven weekly rallies to demand Palestinians’ right to return to their original homes in Israel is now 107.
Meanwhile, there were no reports of any dead or injured on the Israeli side.
Discussing the dozens of causalities today, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the rising number “doesn’t indicate anything – just as the number of Nazis who died in the World War doesn’t make Nazism something you can explain or understand. There is one truth.”
“I am waiting for those youth if they could pull down the fence, then I will cross with them into my father’s land” said Ahmed Abu Reyaleh, a 65-year-old retired chemistry teacher, whose family was originally from the Bayt Jirja village (15.5 km northeast of Gaza). “We have not been created to be under occupation for our whole life, so it’s time to say enough.”
Sixty-seven percent of Gaza’s 2 million people are registered as refugees by the United Nations, and the rallies have been named the “Great March of Return” to remind the world that the long-lost homes and lands of many Palestinians still exist in what is now Israel.
Romoz Mahmoudi, a 54-year–old housewife, was gazing over the crowd of protesters who were igniting tires to create thick towers of smoke which they hoped would allow them to surprise the Israeli sharpshooters and pull down the barbed wire fence separating Gaza from Israel.
“Every protest I come here to send a message that we want to retake our lands,” she said. “Since my two daughters: Jomana 13, and Rawya, 15, were killed in 2014’s war, I have become senseless to death.” Both daughters were killed when their family house destroyed in a tank shelling in Gaza’s Shajaieh neighborhood, the third week after the war began.
At 10:00 a.m. sirens wailed as the injured were carried to nearby ambulances, which had also been hit by live bullets. Dozens of young protesters repeatedly stepping slowly towards the fence, but were quickly scattered once tear gas canisters and bullets buzzed over their heads.
Starting in the early morning Israeli drones dropped brochures warning Gaza residents to stay away from the fence, while Israeli drone operators were ordered to topple flaming kites launched by the youth Palestinian protesters towards the adjacent Israeli agricultural fields.
Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, said the mass border protests against Israel will continue “until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved.”
“Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will be a disaster for the American administration and a black day in the history of the American people because they are partners with the occupation and its aggression against the Palestinian people,” he added.
The opening ceremony for the embassy came as Israel marked its creation 70 years ago, in which approximately 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the 14-month Israel-Arab war.
“A great day for Israel!” President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday.
President Trump told the guests that the opening of the embassy had been a “long time coming”, adding: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right to determine its own capital but for many years we failed to recognize the obvious.”
Top US officials, including President Trump’s daughter and her husband, attended Monday’s event.
Meanwhile, the White House accused Hamas leaders for the lethal violence in Gaza, saying: “Israel has a right to defend itself”.
“There is no justification for the recklessness and cynicism Hamas has shown in urging people to engage in violence that exposes them to terrible risk. As the Secretary of State has said, Israel has a right to defend itself,” a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a statement.