Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza on Monday, killing dozens and injuring more than 2,400 people protesting the Monday opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
As bodies fell on the border on what became the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war, US and Israeli officials celebrated the opening of the embassy.
Demonstrations have quieted so we’re closing down the live blog for now. Here is a summary of today’s events:
Gaza’s ministry of health reported 52 people were killed and more than 2,400 were injured during protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There are six children and one paramedic among the dead, the ministry said.
United Nations human rights experts urged Israel to halt excessive force against Palestinian protesters and Amnesty International accused Israel of violating international law.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) insisted, however, that is was following protocol. The IDF said it killed three “terrorists” and struck five “terrorist targets.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was acting in self-defense. “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” he wrote on Twitter.
Senior US officials, including president Donald Trump, have not mentioned the protests in communications celebrating the embassy opening. “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!” the president said on Twitter.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also ignored the deadly protests, while declaring the US was committed to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine.
Foreign ministries in the UK, France and Egypt expressed concern about the the violence. UK prime minister Theresa May’s spokesperson said: “We urge calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts.”
Trump did not attend the embassy dedication ceremony, but his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to the president, went in his place. Kushner made a rare public address and said the opening of the embassy was an acknowledgement of the truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
“I’m here because of our land that we want back. We have nothing to lose. Nobody cares about us. Why should we wait to die slowly?”
— 25-year-old Mohammed Nabieh, a descendant of refugees from a village near the Israeli city of Ashdod
Israeli forces have killed 41 Palestinians and wounded at least 900 in Gaza, health officials said, as troops fired bullets at residents protesting against the Monday opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Tens of thousands turned out across the coastal enclave in what soon became the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war. Close to 40 of the casualties were critically injured and the dead included a 14-year-old boy, medics said.
The sky along the frontier was blackened with thick smoke as protesters lit tyres. Intermittent sniper fire was heard and crowds of protesters were seen rushing towards the fence.
Around 60 miles away in an affluent neighborhood of Jerusalem, Washington’s ambassador, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and welcomed a delegation of US and Israeli VIPs, including the president’s daughter, Ivanka.
Prior to Monday, Israeli snipers had killed 49 Palestinians and wounded nearly 10,000 Palestinian protesters since the protests began. Among the wounded and killed were at least half a dozen journalists, including Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein — both of whom were wearing jackets clearly marked “PRESS” when they were shot. There have been zero Israeli casualties.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza says that that the number of Palestinians killed by Israel on the Gaza border has risen to 52.
Gaza’s Ministry of Health is reporting that the number of Palestinians killed today by Israeli forces in Gaza has risen to 43.
Israeli soldiers have killed 41 Palestinians and wounded 1,960, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
“We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been killed or injured as a result.
“These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of meters from the border, and many of them children.”
— Emily Thornberry MP, Britain’s Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary
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“Normally, a regular bullet breaks the leg [upon impact]. But these bullets create massive wounds, indicating that an explosion happened inside the body. It’s an expanding bullet. It pulverizes the leg, and the leg gets cut off [as a result].”
— Ashraf al-Qedra, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman
“Half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone.”
— Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, Head of Mission of MSF in Palestine
When he was hit by a bullet fired by Israeli forces during demonstrations in Gaza on April 6, Mohammed al-Zaieem lost so much blood, and his left leg was so deformed, he feared he wouldn’t survive. His arteries, veins and a large piece of bone were destroyed. His right leg wasn’t spared either as the round created a massive exit wound and then hit it as well.
By the time he was transferred to Istishari Arab Hospital in Ramallah after undergoing seven surgeries in Gaza, there was nothing doctors could do to save his left leg. It had to be amputated, unbeknown to al-Zaieem, 22, who was unconscious at the time.
“No one dared to tell him [when he woke up from the surgery]. I couldn’t,” said his cousin of the same name, who lives in the occupied West Bank.
“Ahmed had always expected this could happen to him. The situation in Gaza is difficult. There is no work. But Ahmed always had ambition and he wanted to progress. His friends offered him this job, and he would write and photograph for the agency and send materials for publication.”
— Abu Hussein’s mother
Ahmed Abu Hussein, a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza who was shot by Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, died of his wounds on Wednesday at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel. Abu Hussein is the second Gazan journalist to be killed by IDF snipers over the past month, and one of 40 Palestinians killed during the Great Return March protests.
On Friday April 13, Abu Hussein, a 24-year-old from Jabaliya refugee camp, went to take photographs of the protest next to the Gaza-Israel border fence. His mother told +972 that he had been working with a small photo agency named Bisan, and according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Abu Hussein had worked for a radio station linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (it is yet unclear whether he worked for both places at the same or separately).
Abu Hussein was wearing a PRESS jacket — and was standing with a group of photographers near a press tent at the Great Return March encampment — when an Israeli sniper’s bullet pierced his abdomen, disrupting the blood flow to his brain . . . . His mother says he was struck by a hollow-point bullet, which expands as it hits its target in order to cause maximum damage. This is the same kind of bullet that has been used against dozens of those who have been killed and maimed during demonstrations in Gaza over the past month.
“The deployment of snipers, careful planning and significant number of injuries to the lower limbs does reflect an apparent policy to target [those] limbs. [Targeting protesters’ legs] does not make the policy any less illegal. The use of live ammunition to any part of the body invariably causes serious injury and even death.”
— Omar Shakir, Israel-Palestine director at Human Rights Watch
Mohammad al-Ajouri is a lanky teenager who loves to run, a medal-winning track star with ambitions to compete abroad.
But last month, while participating in a protest along Gaza’s border, he was struck by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. It penetrated his calf, shattering his leg before exiting the shin. Doctors tried to save the limb, but an infection soon spread. The leg had to be amputated.
During the past month of demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel, at least 17 Palestinians have suffered gunshot wounds that ultimately cost them their legs, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
In at least three of the cases, Israeli authorities rejected the transfer of wounded Gazans to the West Bank, where they could receive medical care that might have saved their limbs, according to lawyers and one of the patients’ families.
“It doesn’t matter to me if they shoot me or not. Death or life — it’s the same thing.”
— Saber al-Gerim
No one would ever pick out Saber al-Gerim from the crowds of Palestinians demonstrating against Israel along the heavily guarded fence that has helped turn the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison.
Not for his youthful appearance. At 22, he wears ripped jeans and white sneakers, has a modish haircut and carries a few extra pounds from too many months without work.
Not for his anger. Screaming “Allahu akbar!” and hurling stones with a sling, or straining to pull a cable hooked onto Israel’s barbed-wire barrier in hopes of tearing it apart, he is just one in a fevered multitude, a protagonist in nobody’s drama but his own.
Not even for his willingness to risk death, or his dream of going home to a patch of land he has never seen and cannot really visualize.
“[Liberman’s claims are] ridiculous comments that are not worth responding to. Yasser has been working for years in the press and making films for the United Nations, China and others. They killed a journalist and should confess it is a crime.”
— Rushdi Al-Serraj, Ain Media director and co-founder with Yasser Murtaja
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday said a Gaza journalist who was reportedly killed by Israeli gunfire over the weekend was a member of Hamas.
The claim was immediately rejected by one of Yasser Murtaja’s colleagues, who called the statement “ridiculous.”
Palestinians say Yasser Murtaja was shot Friday while covering violent mass demonstrations near the Israeli border. He was reportedly shot in the torso while wearing a vest emblazoned with the word “press” and filming in an area engulfed in thick black smoke caused by protesters setting tires on fire.
“Yasser Murtaja was a civilian and a journalist who was wearing clear press identification while he was filming the demonstrations at the Gaza fence with Israel. He was there because he wanted to document civilians exercising their right to peacefully protest.”
— Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council secretary-general
The drone floats above the farmland at the east of Gaza’s narrow coastal strip where beyond the fence — the transition is almost invisible — Israel’s border communities begin.
The video is among the last footage filmed by Palestinian photographer Yasser Murtaja in Gaza before he was shot dead by Israeli troops last Friday — and it eerily foreshadows his own fate.
Palestinian demonstrators walk through the flat fields, hold signs or sit in the shade of tents in the five border protest camps that dot the landscape from east of Jabaliya in the north to Khuza’a, a short drive from the southern city of Khan Yunis.
Murtaja died on the second of a series of mass Friday protests called the “Great March of Return,” which will culminate on “Nakba” Day (catastrophe in Arabic) on 15 May, which will commemorate the events of 1948 when, following the creation of the state of Israel, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
Despite wearing body armour clearly marked with a press sign, Murtaja was shot in the stomach while covering the protests and died later of his wounds. He was one of nine Palestinian men killed in a space of a few hours.