JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 50 Gazan Palestinians have been killed at the border with Israel, where tens of thousands have gathered for protests in the hours before the dedication of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
About 50,000 Palestinians massed on the border by mid-afternoon on Monday. Several thousand more Palestinian protesters were located more than a quarter of a mile from the border fence in a tent area, the IDF said. There are at least 10 flashpoint areas along the border.
In addition to the dead, more than 1,000 are injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which has reported that one of the dead protesters is 14. The IDF said that it is responding with riot dispersal means is “operating according to standard operating procedures.”
Protesters in the West Bank also began marching from Ramallah toward the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem, with smaller marches starting out from other West Bank cities such as Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho.
The protests are part of the March of Return, protests that have taken place every Friday at the border for the last seven weeks, leaving at least 48 Palestinian protesters dead and thousands wounded. The protests were supposed to end on May 14, the day on the Gregorian calendar when Israel became an independent state 70 years ago, which the Arab world calls the Nakba, or catastrophe. Hamas leaders have called for the protests to continue beyond Monday, however.
The IDF warned that up to 250,000 Palestinian protesters could come to the Gaza border on Monday and breach it, entering Israel.
“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios. IDF commanders are present in the field and are conducting situation assessments. The IDF will act forcefully against any terrorist activity and will operate to prevent attacks against Israelis,” the military said in a statement that also appeared on Twitter.
“The IDF will act harshly against any terrorist activity and will act to preserve Israeli sovereignty and prevent attacks on civilians and soldiers,” the statement said.
In an English-language video posted on social media, the IDF warned: “On Monday May 14th, the Hamas terrorist organization plans to send armed terrorists, among 250,000 violent rioters to swarm and breach Israel’s border with Gaza and enter Israeli communities. Hamas plans to carry out a massacre in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces will not let them.”
The B’Tselem human rights organization said in a statement in response to the Palestinian deaths: “The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition. The fact that live gunfire is once again the sole measure that the Israeli military is using in the field evinces appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials.” The statement called on soldiers to refuse to comply with open-fire orders.
Meanwhile, at least five wildfires are burning near Jewish communities in southern Israel, which broke out after kites carrying explosives were flown from Gaza over the border.