Gaza residents attend funerals as death toll rises to 60
Palestinians mark ‘Nakba’, Israeli minister is unconcerned about prospect of war crimes
The mother of Leila al-Ghandour, an eight-month-old Palestinian baby who, according to the Palestinian health ministry, died of tear gas inhalation during clashes in east Gaza holds her at the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of Gaza residents attended the funerals on Tuesday of those shot dead by Israeli security forces on Monday in the worst day of violence in the enclave since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
The Gaza border with Israel was much quieter on Tuesday as Palestinians marked “Nakba”, or catastrophe day, as the death toll from Monday’s shootings rose to 60 overnight.
The anniversary marks the expulsion or flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes when Israel was established 70 years ago, but protests were subdued compared to Monday’s demonstrations. One Palestinian was reported shot dead by Israeli forces.
Nakba day protests also took at a number of locations across the West Bank. Businesses and schools were also closed in Arab communities inside Israel, where a number of solidarity rallies took place.
In Gaza city, hundreds marched in the funeral of eight-month-old Leila al-Ghandour, whose body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag. “Let her stay with me, it is too early for her to go,” her mother cried, pressing the baby’s body to her chest.
The dead included eight children under the age of 16, according to Palestinian sources.
Hamas, the militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, said 10 of those killed in Monday’s clashes were members of the organisation: Israel claims 24 militants were among those killed. The Israel army spokesman said Hamas deployed 12 “terrorist cells” to try to breach the border at different locations, and that all were thwarted.
In addition to those killed, some 2,700 people were injured on Monday. Mahmoud Daher, representative of the World Health Organisation in Gaza, said that most of the gunshot victims had been shot in the legs. He said hospitals in Gaza were having difficulty coping with the numbers of patients.
Palestinian leaders termed Monday’s clashes a massacre, and Israel’s use of live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide condemnation.
Israel’s justice minister Ayelet Shaked said Israel was unconcerned about the prospect of war crimes. Asked during an interview if Israel should be worried about lawsuits at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Ms Shaked said troops had done nothing illegal in the face of demonstrators’ violence.
“IDF soldiers are performing well, in accordance with open-fire orders. Security forces are doing a very good job and containing events,” she said. “Hamas is sacrificing its people for political purposes, but the IDF can handle the situation. I hope they got the message yesterday and things don’t get out of control.”
Turkey on Tuesday expelled Israel’s ambassador the day after announcing it was recalling its ambassadors from both Israel and the US, as president Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel for carrying out “genocide”.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued an uncompromising response. “Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us,” he said.
South Africa also recalled its ambassador from Israel to protest over the killings.
He said Israel was destroying one attack tunnel after another and Hamas was in crisis. “Hamas is the angel of death to Gaza’s civilian population,” he said. “Hamas has taken two million people hostage.”
On Wednesday, Guatemala will transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, joining the US which became the first country to relocate on Monday, in a controversial move that angered the Palestinians and Arab states.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called the US embassy “an American settlement outpost in east Jerusalem”.