- IN PICTURES: Violence at the Gaza border fence
- "It's been a long time coming", Trump says as embassy completes Jerusalem move
- Tony Blair: "these protests require careful handling"
- Palestinian view: "this is the life we endure"
Israel was condemned in Britain and abroad after as many as 52 Palestinians were killed on Monday by the IDF, some by live ammunition, in clashes along the border with Gaza.
More than 1,200 Palestinians were wounded in the protests on the day the United States opened the doors to its newly-designated embassy in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said every country had the right to defend its borders and that Israel was doing so against Hamas operatives.
The IDF said it had responded to the Great March of Return protest with “riot dispersal means”, using drones to drop tear gas canisters on the Palestinian side of the frontier.
But the United Nations condemned the use of live ammunition, with its Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein tweeting: “Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now.”
The UK government made no immediate statement on the violence. Middle East minister Alistair Burt tweeted he was “concerned peaceful protests are being exploited by extremist elements", adding: "Urge restraint in use of live fire.”
Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow foreign secretary, said: “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.”
Her statement continued: “we urge the Israeli forces serving on the Gaza border to show some long-overdue responsibility to their fellow human beings, and stop this vicious and utterly avoidable slaughter of peaceful protesters demanding the right to return to their homes.”
“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now. The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The int'l community needs to ensure justice for victims” – #Zeid. pic.twitter.com/hBb7825Sp8— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) May 14, 2018
At least 35,000 Palestinians took part in the protest, the IDF estimated, after loudspeakers at mosques across the Gaza Strip urged Palestinians to join the demonstrations on Monday morning.
The air was filled with black smoke as Palestinians set fire to car tyres and hurled rocks across the border fence, while fires were reported in wheat fields on the Israeli side near the southern kibbutz of Nahal Oz.
Health ministry officials in Gaza told AP at least 52 Palestinians had died and more than 1,200 were wounded, around 450 of them by live bullets.
It is the single bloodiest day of protest since the “Great March of Return” began earlier this year.
“Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever," said Ali, a science teacher from Gaza.
“Many may get martyred today, so many, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end.”
IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means and fire in accordance with standard operating procedures. The IDF is determined to fulfill its mission to protect Israeli sovereignty and Israeli civilians— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 14, 2018
The protests have taken place at regular intervals, mostly after Friday prayers, since March 30.
Around 50 Palestinians had been reported dead in violence over the last six weeks until Monday.
Military experts had warned the violence would peak both on Monday, which is Israeli independence day, and the following day which Palestinians call al nakba, or “the catastrophe”.
Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: “Hamas are planning to achieve maximum violence at the Gaza border on either the 14th or 15th May, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the State of Israel, the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the start of Ramadan — a perfect storm.”
Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, attacked the embassy move, telling Palestinian radio on Monday morning that it meant the US was “no longer a partner”.
Mr Trump’s administration had “become part of the problem,” he added.