Israel defends its use of gunfire, saying it has the right to provide security for its people


Palestinian protesters look up at falling tear gas cannisters near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
SAID KHATIB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Palestinians in Gaza began burying their dead Tuesday after violent clashes a day earlier left some 60 people dead, as Israel pushed back on international criticism over its use of gunfire by defending its right to secure its people.

The bloodshed at the protests, the deadliest in years, cast a cloud over a ceremony celebrating the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and has sparked calls for restraint. Officials in Gaza said that hospitals were overwhelmed, with many running out of essential supplies such as drugs to treat the injured.

About 2,700 people were hurt in the clashes, including more than 1,300 by live fire from the Israeli military, which also used tear gas and rubber bullets to push back Palestinians attempting to breach the fence dividing the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Clashes Over New U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Leave Dozens Dead

Thousands of protesters were injured at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel ahead of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Some protesters burned tires, or used explosive devices, firebombs or flaming kites.

Israel says its military must use gunfire to prevent protesters from reaching nearby Israeli towns. The area near the fence was relatively quiet Tuesday, with Gaza health officials reporting one person killed, but Israeli officials said they were preparing to respond to more protests amid fears they could spread, especially as the holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin this week.

The United Nations Security Council was meeting Tuesday to discuss the violence in an emergency session requested by Kuwait, a U.S. partner in the Middle East.

The U.K. and France have also been particularly critical, with both directly expressing opposition to the embassy opening and the U.K. criticizing Israel’s use of live rounds and calling for an independent investigation. The Irish foreign ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to express Ireland’s “shock and dismay” at the numbers of deaths and injuries, as Turkey temporarily expelled the Israeli ambassador and recalled its own.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday lashed out at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has heavily criticized Israel, saying he was aligned with Gaza ruler Hamas.

“Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

The U.S. placed the blame with the Gaza rulers. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said Monday. “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

The bloodshed was a stark contrast to the ceremony celebrating the new U.S. embassy around 50 miles away, where Mr. Netanyahu and Trump administration officials called the opening a step toward peace. The Palestinians also claim Jerusalem for a future capital and had warned the U.S. against the move, saying it would derail any chance for a peace process.

Hamas has used a host of anniversaries to rally support for mass protests in the past month and a half. The Monday protests drew 40,000 Gaza residents at 12 points along the border fence.

Protest organizers had aimed to encourage tens of thousands to march Tuesday for what Palestinians call “Nakba Day” or “Day of the Catastrophe,” the anniversary of the day after the date of Israel’s founding. But there were no calls on loudspeakers for protests, unlike on Monday, when mosques in Gaza urged people to actively take part in the demonstrations and buses moved people from inside Gaza City to the border.

Protests, however, have in the past often picked up later in the day. There were some clashes in the West Bank as several thousand protesters gathered in the center of Ramallah and elsewhere.

On Monday, Israel’s military said warplanes carried out strikes on 11 Hamas targets in one of its compounds in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli military tanks also targeted two Hamas posts in the north and south of Gaza.

Since March 30, Hamas has helped organize weekly protests and threatened to break through the border fence. Israel has responded with live fire, killing more than 100 people.

The death toll on Monday was the largest on a single day since the Israeli army fought a conflict with Hamas in 2014.

Mohamed Al Ashi, 22, was sharing a room with two others in Shifa hospital in Gaza. Mr. Ashi was hit in the leg, and one of his roommates was shot Monday, while the other was shot the Friday before.

Mr. Ashi said he was protesting near the fence with some friends when the soldiers starting shooting at them. “They should not have shot us. We did not even cross the fence,” he said.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

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