Nima Chitsaz

Israeli bloodshed in Gaza as Palestine marks Nakba Day

May 16, 2018 - 11:57

A day after the Israeli bloodshed in Gaza, the Palestinians are marking the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of the Catastrophe/Yawm an-Nakba), when Tel Aviv forced them out of their homeland and declared its existence on the occupied territory.

Palestinians both in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank are taking part in a general strike as they prepare for mass rallies later in the day to protest the creation of the Israeli entity and renew the call for a return to their motherland.

Nakba Day is commemorated on May 15 every year, marking the day after Israel declared its existence in 1948. That year also saw a war between Israel and a coalition of Arab states over the control of Palestine, during which some 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed.

Around 35,000 protesters gathered at the border of Gaza and Israeli territory Monday to object to the embassy move, continuing the “Great March of Return”.

The Monday protests in Gaza were part of the “Great March of Return,” which first began on March 30 with the aim of condemning Israel’s occupation and demanding their right to return.

The Israeli war machine remains on high alert in preparation for Tuesday's protests, a day after its forces unleashed yet another brutal crackdown on Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 58 people on the spot and wounding over 2,700 others.

Earlier on Tuesday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said that an eight-month-old baby identified as Leila al-Ghandourhad died of teargas inhalation suffered on Monday.

Most of the fatalities, it added, were caused by “sniper fire.”

Another Palestinian also succumbed to the wounds he sustained during Monday's rallies, bringing the death toll to 60.

To put that in perspective, the Israeli regime’s forces had killed 53 protesters between March 30 and May 13.

Protesters demanded an end to the decades-long Israeli occupation of their lands and properties.

Tensions have flared across the Palestinian territories since last December, when the United States declared al-Quds (Jerusalem) in the Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank as the regime’s so-called capital, and said the American embassy would be transferred from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

Palestinians have historically sought the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

U.S. embassy move, green light for Israeli forces to kill Palestinians

Monday, which marked the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza war, also saw the official relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Both friends and foes of Washington have voiced criticism as it illegally declared an occupied city of al-Quds as Israel’s “capital,” saying it would throw an already trouble-ridden region into more chaos.

The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

The status of al-Quds (Jerusalem) is the thorniest issue in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians see East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of their future state.

Jared Kushner: Palestinian protestors are 'part of the problem'

Meantime, Jared Kushner told the crowd at the opening of the U.S. embassy in al-Quds (Jerusalem) that he was optimistic about the prospects for peace in the area.

“We believe it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give so that all people can live in peace, safe from danger, free from fear, and able to pursue their dreams,” Kushner told the crowd. Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been tasked with overseeing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Kushner did address the violence at the border, saying the protestors were “part of the problem.”

“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,” he said. The comment was not included in the excerpts of his remarks delivered to the press ahead of time.

Kushner was among the delegation from the White House attending the opening of the embassy, which was led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. He was joined by his wife Ivanka Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and U.S. envoy for Middle East negotiations Jason Greenblatt. Several Republican lawmakers, including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, were also in attendance.

Kushner also praised President Trump for standing firm in his desire to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem), noting that other Presidents have made similar promises as candidates only to buck them once they were in office. “This President delivered,” said Kushner. “Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.”

 WH: Palestinians responsible for Israel’s massacre of Gaza protesters

The White House has defended Israel’s deadly crackdown on protesters in the Gaza Strip, laying the blame on Palestinians for partaking in demonstrations “organized” by the Islamic resistance movement Hamas.

“We believe that Hamas is responsible for what's going on,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a press briefing. “We believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action that is leading to these deaths.”

“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” he claimed, adding, that “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

 ‘Every nation has the right to choose its capital,’ Schumer backs Trump

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate has thrown his support for Trump’s controversial relocation of the country’s embassy in Israel.

“In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said in a statement. “I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israeli forces who killed over 50 Palestinians, among them several children, for “protecting the borders of Israel as we speak today.”

 U.S. ramps up security out of fear

The opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy was held amid tightened security measures by both Israel and the U.S.

The U.S. military announced later on Monday that an unspecified number of Marines had been dispatched to a number of countries in the region to protect American embassies against possible attacks.

 World condemns Israeli savagery as fears of more deaths in Gaza grow

The Israeli carnage in Gaza and the transfer of the U.S. embassy prompted international condemnations, with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) expected to convene an emergency meeting on Tuesday to address the situation in Palestine.

France also spoke out against the U.S. move, saying along with many other critics that it violated “unambiguous” international law and UN Security Council resolutions.

President Emmanuel Macron condemned the violence against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza in a statement released late on Monday and reiterated his opposition to the relocation of the U.S. diplomatic mission.

“(Macron) lamented the large number of Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza today and over the past few weeks,” the French presidency said, adding, “He condemned the violence of Israeli armed forces against demonstrators.”

Premier Sa’ad Hariri of Lebanon, which has fought two major Israeli wars, said the embassy move had spelt a “dead-end” for all paths to regional peace.

Jordan’s King Abdullah also stressed Amman rejects and condemns “the blatant acts of aggression and violence perpetrated by Israel” against Palestinians in Gaza.

Around 250 Jordanians gathered near the U.S. embassy in Jordan’s capital on Monday to protest the pro-Israeli American decisions.

Iraq also called the relocation an “entirely unacceptable” measure of dangerous security and political implications for the region.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow's objection to the controversial U.S. move, saying Moscow “has several times offered a platform” for talks on the status of Jerusalem al-Quds.

“We firmly believe that it is inappropriate to unilaterally revise the decisions of the international community in this way,” the top Russian diplomat said.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI also denounced Washington's "unilateral decision."

Meanwhile, Hamma Hammami, spokesman of the Tunisian Workers’ Party, said the embassy relocation translates into “the burial of the Palestinian cause,” condemning “reactionary Arab establishments” for alienating their people from the cause.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, voiced “strong denunciation” of Israel's use of force against Palestinian civilians and said Cairo “totally supports the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and first and foremost its right to an independent state with East Jerusalem [al-Quds] as its capital.”

The new government in Malaysia also said it “strongly opposes” the embassy relocation.

“Malaysia firmly believes that the move would further undermine and jeopardize efforts towards finding a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” said the government led by the recent electoral victor Mahathir Mohamad.
In Indonesia, thousands of Indonesian Muslims gathered at the city center of Jakarta to rally support for Palestinians and condemn the US moves.

The Muslim country has set up a hospital in the Gaza Strip, which rendered services to those wounded during the Monday protests.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF/Médecins Sans Frontières) called on the Israeli army to stop using deadly force against demonstrators, saying their actions were “unacceptable and inhuman.”

“This bloodbath is the continuation of the Israeli army's policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators, on the assumption that anyone approaching the separation fence is a legitimate target,” Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the group's representative in Gaza, said in a statement.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called on Israel to be “proportionate in its response and refrain from excessive use of force.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antَnio Guterres was “profoundly alarmed” by the violence in Gaza and urged Israeli forces to “exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire,” his deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Erdogan accuses Israel of genocide  

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Tel Aviv of “state terror” and “genocide.”

“Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state,” Erdogan addressed Turkish students in London via a televised speech. “What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America,” he added.

Turkey has also called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to be held on Friday.

In a phone call with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Erdogan “condemned the attacks and wished Allah's mercy to all martyrs,” according to the official Anadolu news agency. Turkey is recalling its ambassadors to Washington and Tel Aviv for consultations, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also accused the U.S. of sharing responsibility with Israel for a “vile massacre” along the Gaza border, during which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on Monday.

The United States took its place without complaint alongside the Israeli regime in “this massacre of civilians and became a party to this crime against humanity,” Yildirim told reporters in Ankara.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag also announced that Ankara was recalling its ambassadors to the United States and Israel ‘for consultations” following the killings.

South Africa recalls ambassador to Israel  

South Africa also recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest to the recent bloodshed.

“Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice,” said South Africa's Foreign Ministry in a statement.

It added that victims were taking part in a “peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem” and went on to slam “the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border.”

The statement added that South Africa calls for Israeli forces to pull out of the Gaza Strip and end its “violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories.”

Qatar blasts Israeli carnage

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lulwah Rashid al-Khater said Doha condemns Tel Aviv’s “genocide” in the strongest terms possible, and calls on all regional and extra-regional powers to stop the Israeli “killing machine.”
Qatari Foreign ministry spokeswoman Lulwah al-Khater strongly condemned “the massacre” of Palestinians.

Khater further called on the international community to take action and stop “the savage killings.”

“We condemned what has happened,” Kuwaiti ambassador to the United Nations, Mansour al-Otaibi, said on Monday.

Saudi regime censures killings, doesn't mention embassy move

The House of Saud regime condemned the demonstrators' killing without referring to the controversial inauguration of the U.S. embassy in al-Quds (Jerusalem).

“Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the Israeli occupation forces' gunfire against unarmed Palestinian civilians which has left dozens dead and wounded,” said a Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

He further called on the international community to “take responsibility and put an end to the violence against the Palestinians”, while stressing Riyadh's support for the “rights of the Palestinian people.”

Syria decries 'brutal massacre'

“Syria condemns... the brutal massacre carried out by the Israeli occupation against unarmed Palestinian civilians,” said Syrian Foreign Ministry official.

The official also condemned the “criminal and illegitimate” relocation of the U.S. mission to al-Quds (Jerusalem).

He also said the administration of Trump bore “responsibility for the blood of Palestinian martyrs.”

 Israeli childish justification

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) accused the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, of “leading a terrorist operation” and inciting the protesters, who had assembled in numerous locations along the border fence, to conduct what Israel described as terror attacks.

Israeli military officials, however, said the killings were justified because the protests were a cover for a “terrorist operation.”

Palestine United, U.S. out

Following the relocation of U.S. embassy, Palestinian leaders have clearly crossed out Washington’s stated role as a mediator to bring about peace in the region.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas convened an emergency government meeting on Monday afternoon and announced a general strike and three days of mourning, both to start on Tuesday.

“Today is one of the most ferocious days our people have seen,” Abbas said, before turning his thoughts to the newly-anointed U.S. Embassy. “Before we were suffering from illegal Israeli settlements. Now it's another illegal settlement by the Israel and the United States.”

Abbas said that the U.S. had established an “American outpost settlement in East Jerusalem” by opening its embassy.

While referring to the Palestinian deaths as a “massacre” he announced three days of mourning and a general strike to be held on Tuesday.

He also said “the U.S. is no longer a mediator in the Middle East,” and the new embassy was tantamount to “a new American settler outpost” in al-Quds.

The Palestinian Hamas resistance movement also vowed protests would continue.

"We say clearly today to all the world that the peaceful march of our people lured the enemy into shedding more blood," senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said.

He added that Hamas's military wing “will not prolong their silence over the crimes of the occupation.”

 U.S. blocks UNSC Gaza violence probe

A proposed UN Security Council press statement, put forward by Kuwait, was blocked by the U.S., according to a UN diplomat.

Kuwait, a non-permanent UNSC member, called for an emergency session of the Council in the wake of the massacre of nearly 60 Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces on Monday.

The draft statement, which was provided to CNN by a UN diplomat, included language expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.”

It also reaffirmed UN resolutions on the status of al-Quds (Jerusalem), saying that recent events had “no legal effect” under international law. The statement was not passed by the Security Council, after being withdrawn once the U.S. blocked it, according to a UN diplomat.

According the AFP, the U.S. blocked a UN Security Council statement which would have called for an independent probe of deadly violence in Gaza.

 Corbyn urges Britain to act against Israeli slaughter of Palestinians

Elsewhere, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged the government of Prime Minister Theresa may to take action against Israel’s “slaughter” of Palestinian anti-occupation protesters in Gaza.

He said London should address Israel’s “multiple abuses of human and political rights Palestinians face on a daily basis, the 11-year siege of Gaza, the continuing 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory and the ongoing expansion of illegal settlements.

Corbyn also pledged to review Britain’s arms sales to Israel once he becomes prime minister.

 UNSC members want resolution on Israeli settlements enforced

Two-thirds of the 15 UNSC member states have raised alarm over the non-implementation of a 2016 resolution which urges the Israeli regime to stop its settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian territory.

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and seen by Reuters on Tuesday, 10 UNSC member states said they were writing to express “profound concern about the lack of implementation” of Resolution 2334.

“The Security Council must stand behind its resolutions and ensure they have meaning; otherwise, we risk undermining the credibility of the international system,” the letter read.

The council approved Resolution 2334 on December 23, 2016 by a vote of 14-0 when former American president Barack Obama’s administration abstained, stopping short of vetoing the anti-Israel document in a rare move.

The resolution states that “it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem [al-Quds], other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

Israel occupied the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem) during the Six Day War in 1967. It later annexed East al-Quds (Jerusalem) in a move not recognized by the international community.

A new report says Israel expanded its illegal settlement construction by 17 percent in 2017.

Elsewhere, Resolution 2334 states that Israel’s establishment of “settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East al-Quds (Jerusalem), has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

It further calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East al-Quds (Jerusalem), and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.”

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands.

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