Palestinians protest near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalia on 14 May 2018 (AFP)
A United Nations anti-discrimination committee on Monday called on Israel to stop using "disproportionate force" against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza on the deadliest day in the enclave since “Great March of Return” protests began in March.
In a statement, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “gravely concerned” that many of those killed or injured during weeks of protests were reportedly posing no imminent threat when they were shot.
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The statement, dated 8 May but published by the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, also called on Israel to “fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to lift the blockade of the Gaza strip”.
It called on Israel to "put an immediate end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza strip, refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and ensure prompt and unimpeded access to medical treatment to injured Palestinian".
UN anti-racism committee #CERD urges #Israel to put an end to the disproportionate use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in #Gaza, to respect humanitarian law and to lift the blockade: https://t.co/qU1pp9f7TM pic.twitter.com/YX2zdUZj6K
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) May 14, 2018
Dozens of people were killed and hundreds injured on Monday amid reports of Israeli forces firing live ammunition at protesters commemorating the 70th anniversary this week of the Nakba and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
The Nakba, or Catastrophe, is the name given by Palestinians to the events of 1948 when hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel.
The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on Monday accused Israel of committing a "terrible massacre".
Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said the killing of protesters was a crime that would only produce more violence.
Israel killing of 28 #Palestinians #Gaza is a crime that'll only produce violence. Excessive use of force against Palestinians exercising right to protest occupation won't ensur security. Establishment of #Palestine state, #Jerusalem as capital on 4/6/67 lines is path to peace.
— Ayman Safadi (@AymanHsafadi) May 14, 2018
Turkish deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag also described Monday's killings as a "massacre" and said the US shared the blame with Israel.
"The US administration moving its embassy to Jerusalem destroyed the chances for peace and ignited a fire that will cause more human losses and injuries as well as destruction and catastrophe in the region," Bozdag said.
Amnesty International said Israel's "use of excessive force in Gaza" was an "abhorrent violation of international law".
Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said: “This is another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be wilful killings constituting war crimes.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Monday's killings were "shocking".
As new US embassy opens, Israeli snipers today have already killed a shocking 18 Palestinians at Gaza border protests. Hundreds wounded. https://t.co/SREU7NbUIH
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 14, 2018
The Israeli army said in a tweet on Monday that 35,000 Palestinians were taking part in "violent riots" and its troops were "operating according to standard operating procedures".
IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means and fire, and are operating according to standard operating procedures
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 14, 2018
At least 40 people had been killed and thousands injured prior to Monday in recent protests at the Gaza border, the committee said, although Gaza's ministry of health put the death toll at 65.
MEE correspondents on the ground in Gaza on Monday reported that Israeli forces stationed behind the fence had been heavily firing live bullets at crowds since the morning, in addition to small drones dropping tear gas canisters right above the demonstrators.