Gaza: Funerals for 58 killed by Israeli forces as world condemns bloodiest day since 2014
Funerals for the 58 people who were killed yesterday in Gaza by Israeli forces will take place today, amid further protests on what is the 70th anniversary of the 'Nakba' – the mass displacement of some 700,000 Palestinians following the establishment of the state of Israel.
As it emerged that an eight-month-old baby was among the dead after breathing in tear gas, Palestinian officials said that, as well as those killed, around 2,700 people were injured on what was the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war.
Tens of thousands of Gazans were gathering today for the funerals. There was some speculation that Hamas, which governs the Strip, was seeking to rein in the protests today, with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reporting that the group may not urge people to storm the border.
However, emotions are expected to run high today after the deadly clashes, in which unarmed Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border were shot in the build-up to the highly controversial opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, which President Donald Trump has unilaterally recognised as Israel's capital.
While Israel – and now apparently the US – regard Jerusalem as its 'indivisible' capital, Palestinians regard the occupied east of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
But a solution looks far off today as Gazans prepare to continue the protests. Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made reference during the embassy opening to the protests, saying: 'As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.' It emerged that the White House omitted the line from its official record of the opening.
Meanwhile, Turkey said it would recall its ambassadors to Israel and to the US, and Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, described Israel's actions as 'genocide'. South Africa also recalled its ambassador to Israel, condemning what is called 'the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack'.
The UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein condemned the 'shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire' and across Europe there were calls for restraint, with Germany, the UK and France all issuing statements. A spokesman for Theresa May said that Downing Street was 'concerned' by the violence and urged 'calm'.
The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson said: 'Obviously we are extremely saddened by the loss of life that has taken place and we understand that some have been provoking that violence but on the other hand there has got to be restraint in the use of live rounds.'
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, wrote on Twitter today: 'Grieving the tragic loss of life in #Gaza and praying for the peacemakers. The Anglican Church is committed to serve the people of Gaza through the extraordinary work of the hospitals I was able to visit there last year.'
The charity Christian Aid issued an exceptionally powerful statement, with its head of Middle East policy, William Bell, saying: 'Christian Aid deplores the senseless loss of life in Gaza. The vast majority of those who have been protesting over recent weeks are doing so because they refuse to live any longer in despair and without dignity. Of course, as we have consistently said, this latest outbreak of violence is not really about Gaza. The people who are now dying are paying the price for an apparent international indifference and disregard by Israel for the basic rights of Palestinians.
'To be clear, Christian Aid condemns all indiscriminate violence against civilians, whoever the perpetrator. We further believe that all allegations of breaches to international law be independently investigated and that that those who carry out attacks targeting civilians are brought to justice.
'Today, anyone bearing witness to the facts on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territory could conclude that a two-state solution has all but failed. Unfortunately, the US decision to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem only fuels that...Each struggle has its own unique history, but many have pivotal moments when ordinary people pay an extraordinary price in their pursuit of peace and justice. Sharpeville in 1960, Bloody Sunday in 1972, Tahrir Square 2011 – these names and dates have become synonymous with attacks on people exercising their right to protest, on their quest for freedom and equality. Will Gaza in 2018 become that moment in history when the world finally woke up and recognised the legitimate rights of Palestinians? Not to displace Israelis or deny them their rights, but to live alongside them as equals with dignity and respect.'
Another Christian charity, Embrace the Middle East, also issued a statement, with Nigel Varndell, its director of fundraising and marketing saying: 'Last week in Gaza I heard first-hand the fears of Palestinians ahead of today's protests. All of their worst fears have now been fulfilled. I would encourage all of our supporters to join us in prayer for the families whose lives have been devastated today.'
The Church of Scotland also condemned the killings. Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland said: 'The killing of civilians is a matter of international concern and the whole world should stand together in calling for an end to violence and seeking a settlement of this conflict that has continued for 70 years.
'Unilateral actions by states, such as the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem only serve to fuel the despair that Palestinians feel that their rights have been overlooked.
'Yesterday's violence is shocking, shameful and is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
'We know from our partners in Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine, as well as from members of the Church of Scotland who have visited the region in recent weeks and months, that life in Gaza is becoming more precarious and the violence being perpetrated against the Palestinian people is getting worse.
'The world cannot stand by and allow this to continue. For 70 years, Palestinians have been forced to be refugees in their own land. As in so many conflicts, the shocking and needless loss of life should be a spur to the international community to reaffirm the universality of human rights and human dignity.'
However, a large host of evangelical leaders in the US excitedly backed the move, led by the controversial pastor John Hagee, the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel who took part in the opening ceremony at the new Jerusalem embassy. He said: 'I was deeply honored to participate in this historic moment. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, and I am very proud of my country and my president for recognizing that fact. This moment would not have been possible were it not for President Trump's courage...'