Monday’s clashes along the Israel-Gaza border were the deadliest the region has experienced in years, cutting short the lives of dozens of Palestinians including an 8-month-old child, Gaza’s Ministry of Health announced.
Hundreds gathered Tuesday to mourn Laila al-Ghandour, an infant whose family says she died after inhaling toxic fumes from the tear gas used on Palestinian protesters Monday east of Gaza City.
“Let her stay with me, it is too early for her to go,” Laila’s mother cried as she held the girl’s body, Reuters reported. Heyam Omar, Laila’s grandmother, said the family had been inside one of the protest encampments on Monday.
“When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep,” Omar said, according to Reuters. “I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred.”
At least one source disputes the family’s version of events. According to Haaretz, a doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Laila had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe she died due to tear gas.
Of the 60 victims in Monday’s protests, eight were children, the ministry said. More than 2,400 people have been reported wounded as of Tuesday morning.
Doctors Without Borders condemned the violence as ” unacceptable and inhuman ” in a statement, saying it hasn’t seen bloodshed at this level in years.
“It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time,” the group said. “In one of the hospitals where we are working, the chaotic situation is comparable to what we observed after the bombings of the 2014 war, with a colossal influx of injured people in a few hours, completely overwhelming the medical staff.”
The United Nations Human Rights office also weighed in:
The rules on the use of force under int’l law have been repeated many times but appear to be ignored again and again. It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured: women, children, press, first responders, bystanders, & at almost any point up to 700m from the fence.
– UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) May 15, 2018
Monday’s protests took place as the relocation of the U.S. embassy was being formalized a few miles away in Jerusalem. As Israeli forces fired live ammunition and tear gas on thousands of protesters, U.S. and Israeli officials celebrated the major foreign policy move with barely any mention of the violence.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner was the only person to reference the protests, blaming the violence on the protesters.
“Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he said Monday.
White House spokesman Raj Shah followed up on Kushner’s remarks, placing responsibility for Monday’s deaths with Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza and that the U.S. considers a terrorist group.
“Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response,” Shah said, suggesting the clashes were “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt” orchestrated by Hamas’ leaders.
The protests represent the culmination of six weeks of deadly demonstrations along the Gaza border as Palestinians demand a right of return to their land. The campaign is expected to end Tuesday, on the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced during the 1948 war.
This story has been updated to reflect Haaretz’s report that a doctor believes Laila died because of a pre-existing condition.