Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians who gathered near a Gaza fence for the climax of a six-week demonstration coinciding with the inauguration of US embassy in Jerusalem al-Quds.
Clashes erupted along the fence Monday between Palestinians and Israeli forces as protesters converged on the site for a “day of rage”.
According to Gaza health officials, at least 59 Palestinians were shot dead and over 2,700 wounded by Israeli snipers who were positioned along the fence.
Later on Monday, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN said there were eight children under the age of 16 among Palestinians killed during violent clashes that took place on the border fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip.
“We condemn in the strongest terms these atrocities by the Israeli occupying forces, using this massive fire power against civilians who have the right to demonstrate peacefully — and they have been demonstrating peacefully,” Riyad Mansour added.
Israeli troops have killed 45 Palestinians since the demonstrations began on March 30, according to Palestinian health officials, while no Israeli casualties have been reported.
The death toll has drawn international criticism, but the United States which has angered Muslims with its embassy move, has supported Israel.
On Sunday, the Israeli air force dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians not to approach the fence and threatening to target Hamas facilities in the besieged territory if protesters breach the barrier.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli aircraft also dropped flammable material on Monday to burn tires that protesters had stacked to set on fire. The Israelis also fired tear gas at people inside the tented encampments that have sprung up along the fence.
Hardline education minister Naftali Bennett told Israel Radio that the regime would treat the Gaza fence as an “Iron Wall” and anyone who approached it as a “terrorist”.
The rallies known as the “Great March of Return” are due to climax on Tuesday, the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when Israel was created.
Every year on May 15, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate the day, which marks the anniversary of the forcible Israeli eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948.
The daily Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli officer in the Southern Command as predicting that Monday’s protests would be much more violent than those of the previous seven weeks as it coincides with the US embassy relocation.
Israel has doubled the number of forces around the Gaza Strip and in occupied West Bank territories ahead of the controversial embassy opening. On Sunday, the regime deployed 11 battalions along the Gaza fence, including special forces, intelligence units and snipers.
Additional combat battalions and intelligence units are to be deployed to the West Bank, the Israeli daily reported.
More than 1,000 Israeli settlers stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds on Sunday, in a provocative act ahead of the US embassy opening.
The occupied territories have witnessed new tensions ever since President Donald Trump announced on December 6 US recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s so-called capital.
The dramatic decision triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.