Egypt issued a rare condemnation Monday of Israel’s deadly response to clashes along the border with the Gaza Strip, while Turkey said the United States also bore responsibility for the “massacre” there.
The statement by Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned what it said was “the use of force against peaceful marches.”
It also warned of the “negative repercussion of such serious escalation in the Palestinian occupied territories.”
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 55 Palestinians were killed and nearly 1,000 were injured in violent clashes with Israeli forces along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.
Israeli security forces said they were responding to deliberate attempts, spurred by Hamas, to overwhelm and breach the boundary fence to launch terror attacks in Israel.
In addition to protesting the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Palestinians were also marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948.
The Egyptian statement did not mention the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
It was a rare reprimand from Egypt, a partner to the Israeli-imposed military blockade on the Gaza Strip, whose official purpose is to prevent the Hamas terror group, which rules the Palestinian enclave, from importing weapons.
The Israeli army said three of the Palestinians killed on Monday were trying to plant explosives at the border fence. In two separate incidents, IDF troops opened fire on gunmen who were trying to shoot them, Hadashot TV news said. There were also several Israeli airstrikes on Hamas positions in Gaza.
According to the army, tens of thousands took part in the protests at several points along the border.
Turkey accused the US of sharing responsibility with Israel for the “vile massacre.”
“The United States, unfortunately, took its place without complaint alongside the Israeli government in this massacre of civilians and became a party to this crime against humanity,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters in Ankara. “This is a vile massacre and we condemn it strongly,” he added.
Yildirim said that the events were “incompatible” with the US acting as a mediator or protector of world peace.
Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag wrote on Twitter that the violence came after “unjust and unlawful decisions,” in reference to Washington moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The US administration is as responsible as the Israeli government for this massacre,” he said.
UN expresses ‘concern,’ EU calls for ‘restraint’
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern over clashes.
“I’m particularly worried about the news coming from Gaza with the high number of people killed,” he said as the UN Security Council prepared to hold an emergency meeting to debate the ongoing violence, either on Monday evening or the following morning.
“We condemned what has happened,” the Kuwaiti ambassador to the UN, Mansour al-Otaibi, told journalists. “We will see what the council will do. Today or tomorrow we may ask for an emergency meeting.”
The violence came as the new US embassy building opened in Jerusalem with a ceremony attended by Israeli and American dignitaries. US President Donald Trump announced on December 6, 2017, that he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and view the Trump administration’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital as a show of pro-Israel bias.
European Union Federica Mogherini issued a statement calling for “restraint” from both sides.
“We expect all to act with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life,” the statement said. “Israel must respect the right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality in the use of force. Hamas and those leading the demonstrations in Gaza must ensure that they remain strictly non-violent and must not exploit them for other means.”
In a reference to the embassy inauguration, Mogherini said “the ties of the Jewish people to Jerusalem are irrefutable, and must not be denied. And the same is true for the ties of the Palestinian people to the city.”
Reaffirming the two-state solution as the best way to resolve the conflict, Moegherini called for a return to the negotiation table “for the sake both of the Israeli and the Palestinian people, and the entire region.”
Amnesty International said the high death toll of Palestinians was an “abhorrent violation” of human rights.
“We are witnessing an abhorrent violation of international law and human rights in Gaza… This must end immediately,” the London-based human rights group said on Twitter.
Alongside the confrontations at the border, the IDF said it carried out a series of airstrikes in Gaza “in response to the violent acts during the afternoon carried out by Hamas along the security fence.”
“A short while ago, an IAF fighter jet struck five terrorist targets in a military training facility belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the northern Gaza Strip,” the army said in a statement Monday.
“In addition, earlier today, an IAF aircraft and an IDF tank targeted two additional military positions belonging to the Hamas terror organization in the northern Gaza Strip. These strikes were conducted in response to the incident in which IDF forces were fired upon by Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip,” the statement added, saying that 40,000 Palestinians took part in violent riots in 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence.
Israel said ahead of Monday’s protests that Hamas was planning to breach the Gaza border fence and “massacre” Israelis, and that it would stop a possible border breach at all costs, warning protesters that they were putting their own lives in peril.
The protests come as part of the “March of Return” demonstrations along the Gaza security fence. The army’s primary fear was that dozens or hundreds of Palestinians, including Hamas members, would manage to break through the Gaza security fence and wreak havoc in one of the Israeli communities on the other side, attacking residents, starting fires, and destroying buildings.
The past seven Fridays have seen thousands of Gazans taking part in the “March of Return” rallies, which Hamas leaders have said are aimed to ultimately erase the border and liberate Palestine.
During those violent protests, Palestinians hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at IDF troops, rolled burning tires at the security fence and tried to pull it down with chains. Bombs have been detonated against troops as well. Increasingly, demonstrators have been flying kites laden with containers of burning fuel to start fires in Israel.