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Violence Ebbs but Tensions Do Not in Gaza

GAZA — Protest turned to mourning across Gaza on Tuesday as the territory came to a reckoning with the violence at the border fence with Israel on Monday, when Israeli soldiers killed 60 protesters and wounded many hundreds more.

Doctors struggled to treat the wounded in hospitals overflowing with young men suffering from gunshots. Funeral processions surged through the otherwise deserted streets. Tensions lingered that the crisis could escalate into military clashes between Hamas, the armed group that controls Gaza, and the Israeli military.

For now, though, Hamas appears keen to capitalize on a wave of international condemnation of Israel’s tactics. Late Tuesday, the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya turned up at the main protest camp near Gaza City. He was mobbed by hundreds of people who, moments earlier, had been flinging stones at Israeli soldiers and dodging tear gas canisters fired from drones.

“We don’t want peaceful protests, we want rockets fired,” they chanted. “Revenge, Revenge!”

Mr. Haniya smiled and clenched his fists in the air, but was vague about the group’s next step.

“The Great Return protests and the raids on the border by our youth are proof that we have confused the enemy,” he said. “We will continue with the protests, and it is the Palestinian people who will decide the situation on the ground.”

The mosque loudspeakers that rallied Gaza residents to the protests on Monday were largely silent on Tuesday, and the crowds were much smaller. Two people were killed by Israeli gunfire, the Health Ministry of Gaza said, a huge drop from Monday.

Arab countries and other critics, including the United Nations human rights body, accused Israel of employing excessive force against unarmed protesters.

South Africa and Turkey recalled their ambassadors to Israel. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey exchanged heated words on Twitter with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Among Western countries only President Emmanuel Macron of France directly assailed Israel’s actions.

The United States, though, staunchly defended Israel’s actions. At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley denounced what she called the double standard that other nations applied to Israel. “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” she asked. No country, she said, acted “with more restraint than Israel.”

The protests on Monday were triggered partly by anger at the American decision to formally relocate the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. But Tuesday was a more significant historical milestone for most Palestinians as it marked the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes in what is now Israel.

Abeer Shabka, who stumbled through a cloud of tear gas with her 15-year-old daughter, Yasmine, on Tuesday afternoon, said the Nakba had driven her to risk Israeli gunfire. As her eyes streamed with tears and she struggled to find her breath, Ms. Shabka said that her family’s ancestral home was in Jaffa, 40 miles to the northeast.

“We want to go back to our lands,” she said.

At the Shifa hospital, relatives clustered around the beds of dozens of young men with leg wounds. In all, about 1,700 were hospitalized with various wounds, according to Palestinian officials. Mariam as-Sahar stood over her son, Adnan, 18, a high school student who had been shot in the knee by an Israeli sniper as he sat in a field a few hundred feet from the fence.

Concern etched Ms. Sahar’s face as her son winced in pain, but like many in the crowded wards, her tone was calm. “The Israelis also shell people in their houses,” she said. “So even if he had not gone to the march, he could have been targeted at home.”

The wounded man’s father said that their family had been displaced from the town of Ge’a, 10 miles north of the penitentiary-like building that marks the main portals between Gaza and Israel. He last visited the area in 1982, he said, at a time when Gazans could still travel into Israel without permission. “The Israelis are settlers who have raped our land,” he said. “How long will their rule last?”

Muhammad Haniya, a nephew of the Hamas leader, warned that the group could easily return to violence if the international sympathy of recent days did not lead to an easing of the 11-year-old Israeli blockade of the territory.

“We cannot be patient for much longer after all these deaths,” he said. “If the world does not intervene, I do not think that Hamas can remain silent, and our armed resistance will respond.”

For now, he said, the protests would continue every Friday.

Source: NYT > World

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