Middle East

China urges restraint after Israeli troops kill dozens of Palestinian protesters on Gaza border

Netanyahu lashes out at the Turkish president for accusing Israel of ‘genocide’ while UK calls for an investigation into the violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 May, 2018, 11:31pm

China on Tuesday called for restraint, “especially” from Israel, after dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during clashes and protests along the Gaza border against the US embassy opening in Jerusalem.

“China is seriously concerned about the large number of casualties caused by the violent conflict in the Gaza border,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.

“We oppose violence against civilians. We call on both sides, especially Israel, to maintain restraint and avoid further tension and escalation of the situation,” Lu said.

The spokesman reiterated Beijing’s support for a two-state solution, with the establishment of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“China has always believed that the final status of Jerusalem should be finally settled through peace talks between Palestine and Israel in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations,” Lu said.

Palestinians on Tuesday marked the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. And by late afternoon, hundreds gathered in the West Bank for more protests along the border.

Thick black smoke billowed from burning tyres as Palestinians threw stones at Israeli troops on Tuesday, who responded with tear gas. About 200 Palestinians were protesting in the biblical city of Bethlehem while another 100 were demonstrating in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

By late afternoon, reports surfaced that another Palestinian had been killed by Israeli fire.

The man killed was identified as Nasser Ghorab, 51, the Gaza health ministry said, adding he was hit east of Bureij in the central Gaza Strip.

Monday’s violence – which saw Israeli forces open fire, leaving 60 dead and thousands injured – triggered strong condemnation from rights groups and other countries, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who accused Israel of “state terror” and “genocide”.

“Erdogan is one of the biggest supporters of Hamas, so there’s no doubt he’s an expert on terror and slaughter,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back in a Hebrew-language Twitter post on Tuesday. “I’d suggest he doesn’t preach morality to us.”

The US will remain a central part of what needs to happen in Israel, but it does need to give a greater sense of understanding of some of the underlying issues
Alistair Burt

Turkey then ordered Israeli Ambassador Eitan Naeh to temporarily leave the country in protest, according to a foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named.

The official said that this was also in line with Turkey recalling its ambassador to Tel Aviv for consultations.

Meanwhile, Britain’s junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt called for an investigation into the violence even though the United States a day earlier blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe.

“The United Kingdom has been clear in calling for urgently a need to establish the facts of what happened, including why such a volume of live fire was used,” he told UK parliament.

“The US will remain a central part of what needs to happen in Israel, but it does need to give a greater sense of understanding of some of the underlying issues.”

Germany also called for Israelis and Palestinians to avoid escalation in violence and signalled its support for an independent probe into the clashes.

Echoing sentiments expressed by the US a day earlier, Germany’s government spokesman Steffen Seibert blamed the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, for stoking the flames and inciting an Israeli response.

“It is clear that everyone has the right to peaceful protest, but it is just as clear that this right to peaceful protest should not be abused in order to provoke violence,” Seibert said.

Most of the Gazans killed in Monday’s violence were shot by Israeli snipers, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The toll included a baby who died from tear gas inhalation along with eight children under the age of 16, the ministry said.

But health officials later cast doubt over the claim that the nine-month-old had died from Israeli tear gas. A doctor said the baby, named Layla Ghaben, had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of he was not allowed to disclose medical information to the media.

Layla’s family claimed Tuesday that the baby had ended up in the area of the protest as a result of a mix-up.

A Gaza human rights group, Al Mezan, said it is looking into the circumstances of the infant’s death.

Among the many funerals being held on Tuesday, hundreds took part one for Yazan Tubasi, 23, killed east of Gaza City.

His father Ibrahim, 50, said his son had a boy aged one year and three months.

“I am happy that my son is a martyr,” he said, though he was crying uncontrollably. “He is among dozens who died for the sake of Palestine and Jerusalem.”

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared a general strike on Tuesday after accusing Israel of “massacres”.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters