The United States Embassy in Jerusalem opened on Monday. 50 miles away, Palestinian protesters were being shot by Israeli armed forces. 60 were reported dead by the Palestinian Health Ministry as of Tuesday morning, making it the most violent day in Gaza in years.
Monday saw the escalation of about seven weeks worth of political protests in Gaza sparked by the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which Palestinian leaders claim was mostly peaceful. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops used tear gas and live rounds to disperse crowds of 3,500 gathered at the Gaza-Israeli border. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that many of the injured were hit by sniper fire. Reported among the dead were eight children under the age of 16. This included Layila al-Ghandour, an eight-month-old who inhaled tear gas.
In the face of global criticism, both the U.S. and Israel are defending Monday’s actions, claiming the protests were orchestrated by local terrorist group Hamas. American UN ambassador Nikki Haley expressed this in a Security Council meeting Tuesday.
“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?" she said. “I can assure you, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday.” The Israeli government argued that soldiers were not firing at civilians, but rather terrorists that sought to climb the border wall and enter Israel. They report that 24 of those killed were radicals.
The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv’s controversial move to Jerusalem was announced by President Trump in December. Although the Israeli government has been using Jerusalem as a functional capital since 1949, Palestinians claim the city as their capital. Establishing an embassy there shifts away from years of precedent, simultaneously going against the wishes and actions of major American allies. Experts feared that it would hurt efforts to resolve the long-standing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
Beyond the funerals, Tuesday marked a dark day in the minds of Palestinians: Nakba day. Nakba, which literally translates to “catastrophe,” is used to commemorate the 700,000 Palestinians who had to leave their homes in the war leading to Israel’s creation in 1949. As the dead were buried in Gaza, the weight of the protestors’ deaths hung heavy on Palestinians.