Watertown daily times israeli soldiers kill dozens of palestinians at gaza border gas pump heaven

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A mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip on Monday quickly turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire. Monday became the bloodiest day since the campaign of demonstrations began seven weeks ago, to protest Israel’s economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in the protests. Protests also took place on the West Bank, where the focus was on the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on the 70th anniversary of the formation of Israel, amid formality and celebration that created an almost surreal contrast to the violence raging barely 40 miles away.

By late in the evening, 55 Palestinians, including several teenagers, had been killed and more than 2,700 were injured in the Gaza Strip, the Health Ministry said. Israeli soldiers and snipers used barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory.

Even as Palestinians’ anger erupted, U.S. and Israeli officials celebrated President Donald Trump’s move of the embassy to Jerusalem. Previous administrations in Washington, like the governments of most U.S. allies, had been unwilling to make the transfer, insisting that the status of Jerusalem needed to be resolved in a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

In Washington, a White House spokesman faulted Hamas for the violence. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rest squarely with Hamas,” said the official, Raj Shah, at a regular press briefing. “Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response. And as the secretary of state said, Israel has the right to defend itself.”

The atmosphere grew more charged after midday prayers, when more than 1,000 men gathered under a large blue awning. Officials from Hamas and other militant factions addressed the worshippers, urging them into the fray and claiming — falsely, to all appearances — that the fence had been breached and that Palestinians were flooding into Israel.

Several speakers reserved their harshest words for the United States and its decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. “America is the greatest Satan,” said a cleric, holding his index finger in the air as hundreds of people did the same. “Now we are heading to Jerusalem with millions of martyrs. We may die but Palestine will live.” The crowd repeated the chant.

Hamas officials promised that the protests would continue. Khalil al-Hayya, deputy chief of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said at a news conference that the purpose of Monday’s demonstrations was to “powerfully confront the embassy deal” and to “draw the map of return in blood.”

Many Israelis see the relocation of the embassy as simply acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. But Palestinians, who hope to see the eastern part of Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian state, see the move as an abdication of any vestige of U.S. impartiality in determining the region’s future.

“Today is a day of sadness,” said Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian minister of education. “It’s a manifestation of the power of America and President Trump in upsetting the Palestinian people and the people who have been awaiting the independence of Palestine for 70 years.”

The embassy opening began at 4 p.m., with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Kushner, whom the president has tapped as his chief Middle East peace negotiator. They were joined by a small contingent of Republican lawmakers.

Palestinians marched at midday in West Bank cities from Hebron to Nablus. In Ramallah, a small crowd gathered before noon and marched south toward the Qalandiya checkpoint into Jerusalem, a long-standing hot spot for clashes with Israeli security forces.

“Palestine is on the map,” Rajoub said. “This is a right. This is a must. The emergence of the Palestinian independent state with Jerusalem as its capital is the only way to achieve security, regional stability and contribute to global peace.”

Outside the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem, youths released bunches of black balloons that carried aloft black Palestinian flags, showing their disdain for the U.S. move. Even before marchers arrived there from Ramallah, clashes pitted demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails against Israeli security forces firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Clashes were also reported in Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron and Nablus. But one usual site of conflict was relatively quiet: the checkpoint near Beit El. A possible reason: Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, returned Monday from a trip overseas, and security officials ensured that his path home to Ramallah was clear. Israel’s Use of Lethal Force Draws Criticism

Israel has stirred widespread international anger over the use of lethal force against mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters, which Monday produced the biggest one-day toll of Palestinians killed by Israelis since Israel’s 2014 invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Israel said its soldiers had exercised restraint and that many more protesters would die if they tried to cross into Israeli territory. But Doctors Without Borders, the international medical charity, said Friday that it had treated more Palestinians at its Gaza clinics in the past month than during the 2014 conflict and that some of the exit wounds from Israeli ammunition were “fist-size.”

The Israeli military fires tear gas canisters to repel crowds. Shifting winds and gas masks worn by some protesters can render the gas ineffective, however, and Palestinians have become adept at flinging the canisters back or quickly burying them.

Israel has used rubber bullets as a deterrent, but military officials say they are effective only at short range. Israel says its soldiers are allowed to use live ammunition as a last resort and are instructed to aim at people’s ankles or legs.

“Events in Gaza are very serious, painful and difficult but I must say one thing, in all fairness,” the leader, Isaac Herzog, said in a radio interview. “To whoever is sending them to these protests — violence and force will not help you. Look at 70 years of history: You have not achieved anything from violence.” Israel Says It Thwarted Hamas Infiltrators, Struck Back With Warplanes

Though he said the Palestinian fighters were carrying firearms, he acknowledged that there had been no reports of Israeli troops coming under gunfire. An Israeli soldier was wounded by shrapnel from what was believed to be an explosive device, he added.

The demonstrations were originally meant to protest the economic blockade by Israel of the Gaza Strip, the impoverished region governed by Hamas. Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, have joined in the economic squeeze that has left Gazans increasingly desperate.

The timing is no accident — May 15 is observed by Palestinians as the anniversary of what they call the nakba, or catastrophe. It marks the expulsion or flight from the newly formed Jewish state of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in 1948, who have been unable to return or reclaim property they left behind.

The demonstrations at the Gaza fence have taken place primarily on Fridays since March 30, and before Monday had already left dozens of people dead and thousands injured. In those protests, demonstrators have thrown gasoline bombs or rolled burning tires toward Israeli soldiers, and Israeli security forces have said that some of the Palestinians who were killed had been armed with semi-automatic rifles. Palestinian Officials Call For the World to Intervene

Turkey declared a three-day national mourning period over the killings and recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the United States for consultations. Turkey has long criticized Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and strongly opposed the U.S. Embassy relocation to Jerusalem.