UN rights chief demands end to Gaza killings, calls for justice

Israeli live fire that killed at least 59 people and injured over 2,770 people in Gaza on Monday must stop immediately and the international community must bring those responsible to justice, the UN high commissioner for human rights tweeted later that day.

“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now,” Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein wrote in a message carried on the UN human rights Twitter account.

“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.”

Israeli gunfire killed at least 59 Palestinians, the highest toll in a single day since a series of protests demanding the right to return to ancestral homes in Israel began on March 30. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the dead included six children under the age of 18. Ministry officials said about 2,770 Palestinians were wounded, half of them by live bullets.

US President Donald Trump’s recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December outraged Palestinians, who said the United States could no longer serve as an honest broker in any peace process with Israel.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move that is not recognized internationally, as its “eternal and indivisible capital.”

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem — a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians — should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal. Peace talks aimed a finding a two-state solution to the conflict have been frozen since 2014.

France and Britain called on Israel to show restraint and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the events in Gaza. Other responses to the violence were stronger. Turkey accused Israeli security forces of carrying out a massacre and said the US Embassy move had encouraged them.

Turkey condemned the killing by Israeli forces of 59 Palestinians protesting on Monday at the Gaza border against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, saying the United States was an accomplice in a crime against humanity.

“Unfortunately, the US has arrogantly stood by the Israeli administration which kills civilians and has partnered in this crime against humanity,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters in Ankara.

“This provocation will only worsen the problems in the region and cause a deeper mark in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, and will make peace in the region more difficult,” Yıldırım added.

He said US President Trump was trying to distract attention from domestic problems by moving the embassy, “trying to hide the fire inside by setting fires outside.”

Earlier on Monday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem had encouraged Israeli forces to kill dozens of Palestinian protesters. “We curse the massacre carried out by Israeli security forces, encouraged by this step, on the Palestinians participating in peaceful demonstrations,” its statement said.

The nongovernmental international organization Human Rights Watch said: “The policy of Israeli authorities to fire irrespective of whether there is an immediate threat to life on Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, caged in for a decade and under occupation for a half century, has resulted in a bloodbath that anyone could have foreseen.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians had streamed to the coastal enclave’s land border, some approaching the Israeli fence — a line Israeli leaders said Palestinians would not be allowed to breach.

Clouds of black smoke from tires set alight by demonstrators rose in the air. Demonstrators, some armed with slingshots, hurled stones at the Israeli security forces, who fired volleys of tear gas and intense rounds of gunfire.

“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 Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name.

The US relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv fulfilled a pledge by Trump, who has recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital, but it has fired Palestinian anger and drawn criticism from many foreign governments as a setback to peace efforts.

At the embassy inauguration ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises.” “What a glorious day for Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.”

Trump, in a recorded message, said he remained committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He was represented at the ceremony by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, US envoy to the Middle East. Kushner said it was possible for both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to gain more than give in any peace deal.

“Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together,” he said in a speech.

As the ceremony took place in Jerusalem, Palestinian protests on the Gaza border quickly turned into bloodshed.

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