Palestine: International condemnation of Israel’s killing of 59 Palestinian protesters in Gazaescalated as thousands rallied in the coastal enclave to bury the dead from the latest round of violence.
The killings took place on Monday during demonstrations at the Gaza border fence, which coincided with a high-profile ceremony to mark the controversial transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the Trump administration that overturned decades of US foreign policy.
As senior UN rights officials condemned the killings as an “outrageous human rights violation” – adding that it appeared anyone approaching the Gaza border fence was liable to be killed by Israeli soldiers – Ireland summoned Israel’s ambassador to protest against the fatalities.
UN security council members Russia and China also expressed their concern over the Israeli military’s latest and most serious killings of largely unarmed protesters on the Gaza border, which witnessed its highest death toll since the Gaza war in 2014.
Most of the Gazans who died on Monday were shot by Israeli snipers, Gaza’s health ministry said. According to the Hamas-run ministry, the dead included a baby who died after inhaling teargas along with eight children under the age of 16. At least 2,400 others were wounded.
Summing up the concern of many, the UN rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva: “The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot
“It seems that anyone is liable to be shot dead,” he added, stressing that international laws that apply to Israel make clear that “lethal force may only be used as a measure of last, not first, resort”.
“It is not acceptable to say that ‘this is Hamas and therefore this is OK’,” Colville added, in an apparent dismissal of Israel’s justification for the high casualty levels among Palestinians in clashes along the border.
Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, of being behind the protests and says it is merely defending its territory.
The World Health Organisation also intervened, saying the scale of the injuries was threatening to overwhelm Gaza’s already beleaguered health system.
Citing figures from the health ministry and a group of aid agencies, WHO official Mahmoud Daher told the Associated Press on Tuesday that 2,771 people were wounded during Monday’s unrest. Of those, 1,360 were wounded by live fire, 400 from shrapnel and 980 from gas inhalation. He said the majority of those wounded by live fire were struck in their lower limbs.