The formal dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday outraged Palestinians, but it's not the only reason for the deadly, weeks-long demonstrations along Israel's border with Gaza.
Protest leaders call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they fled or were driven from during the creation of Israel in 1948. The demonstrations, dubbed the Great March of Return, are a response to the control of goods entering Gaza by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
Scores of Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded by the Israeli military in clashes along the boundary fence Monday, the most violent day of the protests. More than 100 have died since the protests began in March.
The unrest is likely to continue Tuesday. May 15 is Nakba Day, the Day of Catastrophe, when Palestinians commemorate their ouster.
The Israeli military blamed Gaza's ruling Hamas for the violence, saying the Sunni-Islamist political organization encouraged protesters to breach the fence.
Great March spokesman Ahmad Abu Artema told Al Jazeera that the effort along the fence is designed to "send a message: The Palestinian people have not, and will not, adapt to 70 years of being refugees, estrangement and difficult conditions."
The march was sparked by a Facebook post months ago by Artema, who suggested thousands of unarmed Palestinians walk toward the border fence. Artema rejects Hamas’ notion of eliminating Israel but wants to end the separation between Palestinians and Israelis. “I don't believe in liberation," Artema told Israel’s Ynet News, an online newspaper. "I want to live alongside Israelis."
Palestinian leaders demand the "right of return." About 750,000 Palestinians were displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948. About 70% of Gaza's 2 million population are descendants of those refugees, living in an area about the size of Philadelphia, according to the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza. The committee is an association of groups that oppose the control of goods entering Gaza by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
Thousands of men, women and children gathered in tent encampments at a safe distance from the fence. But militants joined the protest movement and urged participants to burn tires close to the fence and hurl stones and gasoline bombs toward Israeli soldiers on the other side. According to Israeli authorities, Hamas detonated two bombs near a border patrol passing along the fence, and demonstrators were shot trying to cut the fence and enter Israel. There have been no Israeli injuries associated with the protests.
Israel says it has the right to defend its borders, protect its citizens and prevent illegal infiltration. “Responsibility for any clashes that may arise will thus lie solely with Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations who have manufactured this entire campaign,” according to a statement by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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