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Israel, White House Defend Killing of Gaza Protesters

UN office says Israel's use of live ammo unjustified
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2018 6:11 AM CDT
Updated May 15, 2018 6:57 AM CDT
White House Blames Hamas for 59 Deaths at Gaza Border
An elderly Palestinian man falls on the ground after being shot by Israeli troops during a deadly protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, May 14, 2018.   (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

(Newser) – The death toll from what Israel's critics are calling a massacre of unarmed protesters in Gaza hit 59 overnight with the death of a baby from tear gas inhalation, according to Palestinian authorities. The Palestinian Health Authority in Gaza says seven children under 18 were among the dozens of people killed when Israeli troops opened fire on protesters at the border fence Monday, the Washington Post reports. More than 2,700 others were wounded, the authority says, including 1,359 injured by live ammunition. Israel also dropped tear gas from drones in what was Gaza's deadliest day of violence since the 2014 war. The latest developments:

  • South Africa, Turkey withdraw ambassadors. Israeli authorities say South Africa has recalled its ambassador to protest the shootings, the AP reports. Turkey is withdrawing its ambassadors from both the US and Israel. Kuwait drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution expressing outrage and calling for an independent investigation, but it was blocked by the US.

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  • Israel defends itself. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel's action, saying the country was acting in self-defense against Gaza's Hamas leaders, the BBC reports. "The Hamas terrorist organization declares its intention to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this goal," he said. The Israeli military accused "rioters" of "hurling firebombs and explosive devices towards the security fence" and Israeli forces.
  • White House blames Hamas. The White House also blamed Hamas for the violence, which took place as the US was opening its new embassy in Jerusalem, the AP reports. Spokesman Raj Shah called Monday a "great day for Israel and the United States," adding that "Israel has the right to defend itself." He said the deaths were the result of Hamas' "rather cynical exploitation of the situation."
  • A day for funerals. Protest organizers say Tuesday will be a day for funerals, suggesting there will be no border protests on a day when Palestinians mark the anniversary of the "Nakba," meaning catastrophe, when 700,000 people fled or were expelled from their homes after Israel's independence, the Guardian reports.
  • "Part of the problem." In remarks that critics denounced as callous, Jared Kushner referred to the Gaza violence when he spoke at the embassy opening, saying "those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution." His Gaza remarks were excised from the official White House transcript, New York notes.

  • Inside the protests. The New York Times reports that as tens of thousands of protesters gathered Monday in Gaza to condemn Israel's economic blockade of the territory and the new US embassy, speakers from militant groups urged them to move closer to the fence, with some falsely claiming that it had already been breached and protesters were walking into Israel.
  • Reaction from Europe. The UK and Germany expressed concerns about the shooting of protesters, but called for demonstrators to behave peacefully, the BBC reports. French President Emanuel Macron's office said he spoke to Palestinian leaders and condemned the violence against protesters.
  • UN worried about more violence. The United Nations' human rights office said that while Israel has a right to defends its borders, Monday's "appalling deadly violence" was not justified, reports Reuters. The office said it was extremely worried that there might be more violence Tuesday.
(Read more Gaza stories.)

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