The United Nations has called for a transparent and independent investigation into the deaths of over a dozen Palestinians on the first day of the Great March of Return in Gaza. As UN Security Council (UNSC) members urged restraint, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to “those concerned to refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties.”
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, two Palestinians were killed by tank fire, while hundreds of others were wounded by Israeli gunfire, struck by rubber bullets or treated for the effects of tear gas.
In the meantime, the IDF reported that the Israeli army fired at protesters trying to cross the border between Gaza and Israel’s territories as a retaliatory measure to the Palestinians opening fire at the ISF soldiers.
This is what Hamas claims to be a peaceful protest pic.twitter.com/zDPppXdWVd— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) 31 марта 2018 г.
While the French representative at the UNSC have voiced concerns over “the possibility of a new conflict in the Gaza Strip,” a senior UN official warned the UN Security Council that the situation in the region “might deteriorate in the coming days.”
Gaza Strip, 30 March 2018…Great Return March,(Land Day)…17 Palistines killed and more than 1416 injuries… pic.twitter.com/gynb0C5u2P— Nino Fezza (@nfcinereporter) 30 марта 2018 г.
As the protests continued, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told the crowds that “the Great March of Return” was a “message to Trump,” alluding to the US President’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its diplomatic premises from Tel Aviv to the city.
"There is no concession on Jerusalem, no alternative to Palestine, and no solution but to return. This is the Palestinian people taking the initiative and making the event for the sake of Palestine […] for the sake of Jerusalem and the right of return," Haniyeh said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that Israel was responsible for the violence, having declared March 31 a national day of mourning, while Israel blamed the brutal protests on Hamas, saying, “the IDF would not allow the security fence to be turned into an area of terror.”
The Hamas terror organization is responsible for violent riots and everything taking place under its jurisdiction. The IDF will not allow the security fence to be turned into an area of terror— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) 30 марта 2018 г.
The protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” marked the so-called Land Day, an annual commemoration of the deaths of six Arab citizens killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations over 1976 government land confiscations. At the same time, the march focused on the forthcoming Nakba (disaster in Arabic), when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced after Israel announced its independence in 1948.
Currently, the protesters are pressing for the return of Palestinian refugees to the territories they claim were illegally seized by Israel, while Israeli authorities demand that Palestinians settle only in Gaza and the West Bank.
The move prompted worldwide condemnation, sparking unrest across the Middle East, with thousands of people taking to the streets to protest the decision throughout the Arab world. As a response to the recognition, Palestinian Islamic fundmanetalist organization Hamas announced the beginning of the third "intifada" against Israel.
President Trump's decision has been harshly criticized by his counterparts, arguing that Jerusalem's status should be determined through negotiations between Israel and Palestinians.