Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Israeli fire kills dozens in Gaza border as US embassy opens in Jerusalem

AP, GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Israeli army throws tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest against the US embassy move to Jerusalem yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Israeli fire yesterday killed at least 37 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza Strip border, marking the deadliest day of violence there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and casting a pall over Israel’s festive inauguration of the new US embassy in contested Jerusalem.

In a show of anger fueled by the embassy move, protesters set tires on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border.

The Israeli military said its troops had come under fire and accused protesters of trying to break through the border fence.

It said troops shot and killed three Palestinians who were trying to plant a bomb.

By mid-afternoon, at least 37 Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed, while at least 772 were wounded, including 27 critically, Palestinian health officials said.

The Hamas-led protest in Gaza was meant to be the biggest yet in a weeks-long campaign against a decade-old blockade of the territory.

The march was also directed at the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem later yesterday.

The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv, a key campaign promise of US President Donald Trump, has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

“A great day for Israel!” Trump tweeted early yesterday.

Yesterday marked the biggest showdown in years between Israel’s military and Gaza’s Hamas rulers along the volatile border.

The sides have largely observed a ceasefire since the 2014 war — their third in a decade.

The protests mark the culmination of a campaign, led by Hamas and fueled by despair among Gaza’s 2 million people, to break the decade-old border blockade of the territory imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.

Since weekly border marches began in late March, 79 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 2,300 wounded by Israeli army fire.

Hamas said four members, including three security men, were among the dead yesterday.

Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas figure, said the mass border protests against Israel would continue “until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved.”

“Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will be a disaster on 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.

Most of the casualties were in the southern Gaza towns of Khan Younis and Rafah.

Israeli forces were firing volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowds and the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard.

Sirens were constantly wailing as the wounded were carried to nearby ambulances.

Groups of young activists repeatedly approached the fence, but were quickly scattered by gunfire and tear gas.

Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the army had set up additional “layers” of security in and around communities near the border to defend Israeli civilians.

He said there already had been several “significant attempts” to break through the fence.

“Even if the fence is breached, we will be able to protect Israeli civilians from attempts to massacre or kidnap or kill them,” he said.

European foreign ministers yesterday said the embassy move was unwise and likely to exacerbate tensions. Their comments came after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania blocked the 28-nation EU from publishing a statement about the US move.

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