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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 July 2018

Israel violence in Gaza sparks worldwide condemnation 

Widespread condemnation followed the Israeli military’s killing of 58 Palestinians on Monday at protests in Gaza against the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Israeli army patrols and snipers fired live ammunition and tear gas canisters at protesters near the border fence of the isolated enclave as thousands demonstrated against the inauguration just 70km away.

White House senior advisers Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner both attended the ceremony while US President Donald Trump spoke in a televised message.

In the wake of the deaths, South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations. Turkey followed suit and also recalled their ambassadors to Israel and the US as well as telling the Israeli ambassador to temporarily leave the country, a foreign ministry official said.

Ambassador Eitan Naeh was summoned to the foreign ministry and told to "return to his country for a period of time". Turkey called Monday's events a "massacre".

Mr Erdogan and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke by phone on Monday, a presidential source said. The two leaders discussed the US embassy relocation, while Mr Erdogan took the opportunity to condemn Israel's attacks.

In Europe late on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron "condemned the violence of the Israeli armed forces against protesters."

Mr Macron said he "will speak to all the actors in the region in the coming days," his office said in a statement. It added that the French president had "warned repeatedly of the repercussions" of Mr Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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Read more:

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The move, announced by Mr Trump in December, "contravenes international law and UN Security Council resolutions," Mr Macron said at the time.

On Tuesday afternoon the UN said the threat of Palestinians approaching the Gaza fence was not sufficient ground for the use of live ammunition. Adding that anyone seems "liable to be shot dead" in Gaza.

Earlier that day China called for restraint, "especially" from Israel, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying they were "seriously concerned about the large number of casualties."

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also decried the killings in a Tweet. "Israeli regime massacres countless Palestinians in cold blood as they protest in the world's largest open-air prison," he wrote.

The statements came after the initial condemnation of the bloodshed Monday with British Prime Minister Theresa May urging "calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts." On Tuesday Britain's middle east minister called for an "independent investigation" in the violence in Gaza.

However, he also said it was "deplorable but real that extremist elements have been exploiting these protests", adding the government "understands the reasons why Israel would seek to protect its border and its border fence."

Arab states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, were also among those decrying the deaths.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the Kingdom condemned "the Israeli occupation forces' gunfire against unarmed Palestinian civilians" while Egypt's foreign ministry called those killed "martyrs".

The White House, however, blamed the bloodiest day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years on Hamas. "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas," said White House spokesman Raj Shah.

Australia's prime minister has also blamed Hamas for the deaths of at least 58 people.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Melbourne Radio 3AW: "Hamas' conduct is confrontational. They're seeking to provoke the Israeli defence forces."

Mr Turnbull said: "They're pushing people to the border. In that conflict zone, you're basically pushing people into circumstances where they are very likely to be shot at."

On Monday, tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied near Israel's border fence to protest a blockade of their territory and the move of the US embassy to contested Jerusalem that day.

It was the deadliest day in Gaza since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas. The Israeli Defense Force says it was following protocol while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the army's acts of aggression an act of self-defence. "We will continue to act firmly to protect our sovereignty and our citizens," Mr Netanyahu tweeted.

Amnesty International called the bloodshed an "abhorrent violation" of human rights, and said the apparently "wilful killings" constitute "war crimes". Human Rights Watch also denounced the "bloodbath".