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Tension in Gaza as Palestinians begin to bury 58 dead

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Gaza’s deadliest day of violence in years

Funerals are being held in Gaza after the deadliest day of violence there since a war in 2014.

On Monday, 58 people were killed when Israeli troops opened fire during Palestinian protests.

Tuesday is the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba – a mass displacement after Israel’s creation.

Israel’s military said it was preparing for further confrontations on Tuesday ,but Palestinian groups indicated they intended to rein in the protests.

Monday’s violence came as the US inaugurated its first embassy in Jerusalem, a controversial move that broke with decades of US policy and incensed Palestinians.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Many see the US move as backing Israeli control over the whole of the city, which Israel regards as its indivisible capital.

Palestinian officials said that as well as those killed, about 2,700 people had been injured in what they called a massacre.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his military was acting in self-defence against Gaza’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, who seek to destroy Israel.

Israel’s military said it had only fired at “targets of terrorist activity”.

The UN human rights office was heavily critical of Israel’s use of force.

“The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot,” spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“How much threat can a double amputee be making from the other side of a large fortified fence?” he asked – referring to a widely shared report that a wheelchair user was killed during the violence.

What happened at the Gaza border?

Israel said some 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in “violent riots” at 13 locations along Israel’s security fence on Gaza’s eastern border on Monday.

Palestinians hurled stones and incendiary devices and approached the border fence. Israeli snipers fired live ammunition at protesters and used tear gas dispersed from drones.

Palestinians were demonstrating as they have been for seven weeks, as part of a protest branded the “Great March of Return”.

Monday’s protests were timed to mark the anniversary of Israel’s creation in 1948 and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who subsequently fled their homes or were displaced in the war that followed.

Mr Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the violence and sought to justify Israel’s military action. “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” he said,

Hamas did not initiate the weekly protests that have been taking place for the past seven weeks, but the group has since become the driving force behind them.


Shock in Gaza as the dead are buried

By Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor, in Gaza City

Israel withdrew its forces and settlers in 2005, but the UN still considers the territory occupied.Since 2007, Israel and Egypt have enforced a sea and air blockade, controlling the flow of commercial goods and people in and out of the impoverished strip.

They say it is for their own security.

Politically, Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which Israel and other powers regard as a terrorist group.

In 2014, a 50-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians died.

Why is the embassy controversial?

The violence in Gaza and the US embassy opening were not explicitly linked but both were timed to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary on Monday.

Commentators drew attention to the stark contrast between the images from Jerusalem – of a high-level US delegation, alongside Mr Netanyahu and his wife, celebrating the new US embassy opening – and the violent images emerging from Gaza.

Media captionDonald Trump addresses the ceremony via videolink

The relocation has incensed the Palestinians and drawn the ire of other nations, who say it violates international law.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called the new embassy “a US settlement in East Jerusalem”.

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