It was hailed in Israel as a day of celebration. It turned into a massacre on the Gaza border.
As U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner celebrated the opening of a relocated U.S. embassy in Jerusalem Monday, Palestinians young and old gathered by the thousands at the eastern border of Israel to denounce the embassy move and demand an end to a blockade that has crippled the Gaza strip for more than a decade.
Israeli soldiers rained teargas and fired live ammo into crowds of Palestinian protesters amassed along the border. Paramedics worked at a feverish pace, carrying the dead and wounded on stretcher runs that continued throughout the day.
About 60 Palestinians, including a paramedic, have been killed thus far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. More than 2,500 more have been injured.
But protesters continued to surge forward despite the violence. Groups of young men burned tires to obscure the view of Israeli snipers as others worked to cut their way through the border fence.
“We’re going to Jerusalem,” some of the young Palestinian men shouted and sang as they carried on, “even if a million of us are martyred!”
World leaders and human rights watchdogs condemned Israel for its "disproportionate use of force." But the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has maintained that it followed protocols and fired against those that posed a threat. Israel reported no fatalities among its ranks.
The decade-long blockade on Gaza and its Hamas-led government has included planned power cuts, trade restrictions, and heavy security, making life so hellish that many young Gazans are now ready and willing to risk their lives. The local healthcare system has plunged into crisis and the unemployment rate has soared to nearly 50 percent.
“The youth in Gaza are facing the worst conditions ever,” 29-year-old Tamer Abu Daka told VICE News. “That’s why the youth go to the Eastern border. Because they got fed up.”
Seb Walker is in Gaza, where he’s covering the protests. Hind Khoudary contributed to this report.
Cover image: A woman holds a Palestinian flag as a protester burns tires near the Israeli border fence, east of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, Monday, May 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana).