Israel cites self defense as world slams aggression in Gaza

After more than 50 Palestinians were killed in the day's protest, South Africa and Turkey recalled their ambassadors to Israel.

A female Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against US embassy move to Jerusalem, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City May 14, 2018 (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS)
A female Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against US embassy move to Jerusalem, at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City May 14, 2018
The international community urged Israel to stop shooting Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border, with South Africa and Turkey recalling their ambassadors in protest, after a day of violent riots left 58 Palestinians dead on Monday.
“The South African government condemns in the strongest terms possible the latest act of violent aggression carried out by Israeli armed forces along the Gaza border,” the South African government said. “Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice,” it added.
Turkey"s Erdogan equates deadly Gaza violence to "genocide," May 14, 2018 (Reuters)
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry minced no words and called Israeli actions on the Gaza border “a massacre,” and the country's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, labeled it a "genocide." At a speed in London he said his country had recalled its ambassadors to both the US and Israel, according to the Turkish web site the Daily Sabeh.
The United Nations Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting on Gaza in New York on Tuesday, with the US appearing to have quashed calls for an investigation into the issue.
The IDF did its best to make its case that the Hamas-led protests, known as the Great March of Return, were not peaceful demonstrations but violent riots designed to break through the border fence and kidnap soldiers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the IDF had acted in self-defense.  “Every nation has the right to defend its borders. Hamas clearly says its intentions are to destroy Israel and sends thousands to break through the border for that end. We will continue to act with resolve to defend our sovereignty and our citizens," Netanyahu said.
But Israel’s allies in Europe, who earlier in the week spoke of Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran, called for restraint after Monday turned out to be the bloodiest day of protests since the Great March began on March 30.
The number of casualties was reported by the Hamas-led Ministry of Health in Gaza and there was no independent corroboration.
The German Foreign Office and the French Foreign Ministry expressed concern that Israeli actions in Gaza amounted to a disproportional use of force.
“Israel has the right to defend itself and to secure the fence against violent incursion. However, the principle of proportionality applies. That includes only using live ammunition when other, less forceful methods of deterrence do not work and in cases of concrete threats,” the German Foreign Office said.
At the same time, it also urged Hamas not to exploit the protest for violent ends.
“The right to peaceful protest must also apply in Gaza. At the same time, we have always made clear that this right must not be abused, taken as a pretext or exploited in order to escalate the situation, deploy violence or incite others to do so,” the German Foreign Office said.
“Those who wield power in the Gaza Strip must renounce violence and the Palestinian Authority must once again be in control in Gaza,” it added.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for restraint on both sides but unlike Germany did not make any statement against Hamas.
“France again calls on the Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint with respect to the use of force, which must be strictly proportionate. It reaffirms the duty to protect civilians, especially minors, and the right of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully,” Drian said.
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza. "(Macron) lamented the large number of Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza today and over the past few weeks," the French presidency said.
"He condemned the violence of Israeli armed forces against demonstrators."
Macron talked with Jordan's King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday and is planning to talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, the presidency said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May spokesman said, “The loss of life and the large number of injured Palestinians is tragic ... Such violence is destructive to peace efforts.”
"We call on all sides to show restraint and refrain from any further violence. Palestinians have the right to protest but these protests must be peaceful. We are concerned that extremist elements may be seeking to hijack peaceful protests to further their own objectives. Israel has the right to defend its borders ... but the use of live fire is deeply troubling,” May said.
The European Union also urged Israel not to use disproportional force and for Hamas to ensure that the demonstrations were peaceful.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang blamed the violence on the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
“We oppose violent action which targets poor people. In the present situation we urge all relevant parties, especially Israel, to exercise restraint to prevent the situation escalating any further. This is an urgent priority. The root cause of this problem, as the whole of the international community knows, surrounds the status of Jerusalem, he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also blamed the US.
"From the very beginning Moscow has voiced concerns related to the actions of the U.S. that could provoke escalation of tensions in the Middle East. Unfortunately this is exactly how it turned out. This situation and moreover the deaths of many dozens of Palestinians cannot but cause our deepest concern,” Peskov said.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “it is imperative that everyone show the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life, including ensuring that all civilians and particularly children are not put in harm’s way.
Zeid Ra’ad, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights tweeted a much sharper note out of Geneva.
The “shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now. The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The [international] community needs to ensure justice for victims.”
Reuters and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.