Protests at the Gaza border reached a fever pitch Monday, with 52 dead and about 1,200 injured as Palestinians reportedly rushed the border, and Israeli Defense Forces used live fire on those attempting to cross as the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was celebrating its opening, fulfilling a controversial pledge by President Donald Trump.
In the deadliest day since the start of the weeks-long Palestinian protests along the border, the actions of the IDF against those at the border prompted both strong condemnation and defense.
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said that the “responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” and said that the group was “intentionally and cynically provoking this response.”
“Look...this is a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt. I think the Israeli government has spent weeks trying to handle this without violence, and we find it very unfortunate,” Shah said at a Monday afternoon press briefing. “Again, we believe Hamas is responsible.”
At the U.S. Embassy celebration, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was simply protecting its borders.
“Every country has the obligation to protect its borders,” Netanyahu said. “The Hamas terrorist organization declares its intentions to destroy Israel and sends thousands to break through the border fence for that purpose. We will continue to act with determination to defend our sovereignty and our citizens.”
A Likud lawmaker Avi Dichter claimed that the defense forces had more than enough ammo to drive the protesters away, telling Hadashot TV news that he was not concerned about border breachers.
“[Security forces] won’t let anyone put soldiers, and certainly not civilians, in danger,” Dichter said. “The IDF has enough bullets for everyone. I think that ultimately, the means that the IDF prepared, whether non-lethal, or if needed, lethal, in cases where it’s justified by the open-fire regulations — there’s enough ammunition for everyone.”
Some voices within Israel were vehemently against the violence, and condemned the timing of the new Embassy celebration. In a tweet, Knesset member Ahmad Tibi wrote, “A massacre is taking place against unarmed civilians in #Gaza. What were [U.S. Ambassador David] Friedman and [Assistant to the President Jason] Greenblatt thinking about by choosing #Nakba70 for their shameful celebration of hate? Israeli government must be held accountable.stop the massacre.”
Haaretz reported that MK Ayman Odeh called the Monday’s death toll a “bloodbath.”
"Every shot fired and every person killed aggravates the violence,” he said. “Gaza has become a pressure cooker under which Israel stokes the fire."
International voices have also condemned the violence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan–whose democratic leadership doesn’t have the best record–said he would “stand with Palestinian people with determination” during a state visit in London Monday.
“Israel is wreaking state terror. Israel is a terror state,” Erdogan said. “What Israel has done is a genocide. I condemn this humanitarian drama, the genocide, from whichever side it comes, Israel or America.”
South Africa recalled its ambassador due to the “indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack, according to a statement from the country’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation. “The victims were taking part in peaceful protests against the provocative inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.”
According to The Times of Israel, an Israeli official told Hamas that the “the assassinations will return” if the protests continue.
“We say clearly today to all the world that the peaceful march of our people lured the enemy into shedding more blood,” a senior leader in Hamas Khalil al-Hayya said in response. “[We] will not prolong their silence over the crimes of the occupation.”