UN chief 'profoundly alarmed' by escalating violence, Palestinian deaths in Gaza protests

The international community is condemning the eruption of violence along the Gaza-Israel border on Monday, where more than 50 Palestinians died. Some countries blame Israel, the U.S. blames Hamas and others, including Canada, call for restraint on both sides of conflict.

Worldwide reaction calls for restraint on both sides

Palestinian demonstrators run for cover during a protest, fuelled by the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem, at the Israel-Gaza border on Monday. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

The international community is condemning the eruption of violence along the Gaza-Israel border on Monday, where Palestinians held mass protests against the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.  

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 52 Palestinians, including five minors. lt also said 1,204 Palestinians were shot and wounded, including more than 100 who were in serious or critical condition. 

Palestinian protesters set tires on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. Later on Monday, Israeli forces fired from tanks, sending protesters fleeing to take cover.

The Israeli army said Hamas-led protesters tried to plant bombs and attacked the border fence. It accused the militant group Hamas of using the protests as a cover for attacking Israel.  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauds during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. The celebration was a stark contrast to the violence erupting along the Gaza-Israel border. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is "profoundly alarmed by the sharp escalation of violence"  along the Gaza-Israel border on Monday, a statement from his spokesperson said. 

"Israel security forces must exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire," the statement said. "Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations have a responsibility to prevent all violent actions and provocations." 

Canada also called on "all parties to the conflict" to "ensure civilians are protected."

(In addition to protesting the U.S. Embassy move, Monday's Hamas-led protest was meant to be the biggest yet in weeks of border marches to try to break the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007.)

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also addressed both sides of the conflict, saying Israel must respect the "principle of proportionality in the use of force," as well as "the right to peaceful protest." 

At the same time, Mogherini said Hamas must make sure demonstrators in Gaza are peaceful and "must not exploit them for other means."

Several countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Iran directly blamed Israel for Monday's violent clashes. 

Demonstrators in Istanbul march with Palestinian flags during a protest in support of Palestinians and against the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem on Monday. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

South Africa has recalled its ambassador to Israel, according to a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry. South Africa's relations with Israel have long been chilly, as the South African government supports the Palestinian cause.   

Kuwait called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday to address the violence.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, urged the security council to condemn the Israeli military's actions, calling them a "savage onslaught" and an "atrocity."

The UN Security Council previously held an emergency meeting in March when the protests along the Gaza-Israel border began, but couldn't agree on any action or joint message, although it urged restraint on both sides.

But Washington remained steadfast in its support of Israel, saying responsibility for the Palestinian deaths "rests squarely with Hamas."

"Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response," said White House spokesperson Raj Shah while speaking with reporters at a briefing. He accused Hamas's leaders of making a "gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt" at the same time the U.S. was opening the embassy in Jerusalem.

Shah also declined to join with other countries, including France and Britain, in calling for Israel to exercise restraint in its response to the protests.

On Monday afternoon, an official from the U.S. Marine Corps said several dozen additional Marines are being deployed to temporarily beef up security at American embassies in Israel, Jordan and Turkey in the aftermath of the violence. 

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters