Diplomats protest after Israel kills 60 at border
Diplomatic pressure on Israel mounted following its bloodiest confrontation with the Palestinians since a 2014 war, with Turkey expelling the Israeli ambassador and criticism in European capitals spreading even as the violence ebbed.
Ambassador Eitan Na’eh was ordered to leave “for a while,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, a day after Ankara recalled its envoy from Israel. Hours later, the Turkish consul in Jerusalem, Husnu Gurcan Turkoglu, was also sent home by Israel.
Belgium and Ireland summoned Israel’s envoy to protest the killing of 60 Palestinians and wounding of hundreds of others on Monday. France called the Israeli military response “unacceptable” and the U.K. termed it “shocking.”
Tens of thousands of Gazans — some of them violent — had converged on the border. But critics said the Israeli military, which reported no serious casualties, used excessive force in response to militants confronting the army or pushing people to charge at Israel’s security fence.
International criticism of Israel’s response followed back-to-back diplomatic victories it’s scored in recent days. Last week U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to block. On Monday, Israel celebrated another coup — Washington’s relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Israel says at least 24 of the dead were terrorists, most affiliated with the Hamas group that rules Gaza. Gaza’s Hamas-run Interior Ministry said 10 were members of the group.
Tuesday was to have been the climax of six weeks of protests in Gaza meant to dramatize their refugee status on the day Palestinians mark the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” of their displacement by Israel’s 1948 creation. But the number of Palestinians venturing to the border with Israel dropped to about 4,000, according to the Israeli army. Two Palestinians were shot dead, the Gaza health ministry said. Clashes also took place across the West Bank.
Hamas has said protests would continue weekly, but it was not clear if it would be able to maintain momentum during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this week.
One leading organizer said the next mass march would be held June 5, to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Mideast war in which Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Among the dead being buried Tuesday was Leila alGhandour, an eight-monthold baby. According to her family, she was killed after inhaling a cloud of Israeli tear gas during Monday’s bloody protests on the border. They said her 12-yearold uncle had become confused and accidentally brought the baby to within yards of the barbed wire fence that Israel has vowed to defend.
“She is not the first martyr for Palestine and she won’t be the last. Her sacrifice is for Jerusalem and for the homeland,” her father, Anwar al-Ghandour, said.
An Israeli military spokesman disputed that Leila’s death was caused by Israeli tear gas, saying “we have several accounts that question the validity of this statement.” They did not give more details.
Meanwhile, patients with gunshot wounds filled wards and hallways in Gaza’s under-equipped and overwhelmed main hospital Tuesday, with dozens still waiting in line for surgery a day after the deadly clash.
Even before the latest round of bloodshed, Gaza’s health system of 13 public hospitals and 14 clinics run by NGOs had buckled under persistent blockade-linked shortages of medicines and surgical supplies. At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the main health facility in the strip, these woes were magnified this week.
Anticipating a major influx of casualties ahead of Monday’s mass march, Shifa had set up an outdoor triage station under a green and blue tarp in the hospital courtyard, setting up 30 beds and stretchers there.
Throughout the day Monday, Shifa received about 500 injured people, more than 90 per cent with gunshot wounds, said hospital director Ayman Sahbani.
Of those, 192 needed surgery, including 120 who needed orthopedic surgery, he said.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, overwhelmed surgeons working in 12 operating theatres had only performed 40 orthopedic operations, with 80 others still waiting their turn.
Nickolay Mladenov, the special UN envoy to the region, told the Security Council on Tuesday that hospitals in Gaza were “reporting an unfolding crisis of essential medical supplies, drugs and equipment needed to treat the injured.”
The mother of Leila al-Ghandour, an eight-month-old Palestinian baby who died during clashes in East Gaza on Monday, cradles her body at the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.