(CNSNews.com) – Israel’s military blamed Hamas for Monday’s deadly violence along the Gaza-Israel border, and said impoverished Palestinians were being offered cash incentives, bankrolled by Iran, to storm the security fence.
“Those who do not participate are threatened by the terror organization,” the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson’s office said. “Hamas is coercing Gazans to risk their lives.”
Hamas linked Monday’s rioting to the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, saying that Palestinians “came out today to respond to this new American-Zionist aggression” and “rejected this crime with their blood.”
On the deadliest day in the conflict in almost four years, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza reported that 55 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli troops as tens of thousands approached the border in the culmination of a six-week “great march of return” campaign orchestrated by Hamas.
Rocks and incendiary devices were thrown, and the IDF said Hamas cells had used the cover of the riots to fire at its soldiers, while several groups had attempted to tear down the border fence.
There are fears of further violence on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mark as the 70th anniversary of what they call the “catastrophe” brought about by the establishment of the State of Israel.
Early Tuesday local time the Gaza Now news agency posted on its Facebook page a message saying Palestinians would be protesting not just at the Gaza border, but also in the West Bank, elsewhere in Israel including Jerusalem, and in the diaspora.
“Tuesday morning! Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian people are preparing for the biggest march on the border of the #Gaza Strip, the #bank, #inside, #Jerusalem and #diaspora, to liberate their country and return to #occupied Palestine,” it said.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defended the IDF actions on Monday, saying that “every country must protect its borders.”
“The Hamas terrorist organization declares its intention to destroy Israel and sends thousands to breach the border fence in order to achieve this purpose,” he said. “We will continue to act with determination to protect our sovereignty and our citizens.”
The Trump administration backed Israel.
“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told a briefing. “Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response.”
Israel had earlier airdropped thousands of leaflets in Gaza urging people not to approach the border.
Hamas had a message for the same target audience. A posting on a Facebook page, translated by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, urged participants to bring concealed knives or guns, and encouraged those able to breach the border to “kidnap Israeli civilians and transfer them immediately to Hamas.”
Accompanying aerial maps were marked out to show the quickest routes to Israeli communities near the border.
“There’s no other way to understand these pictures than as a threat against these communities,” said IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis. “There’s no other way to interpret them.”
In a statement late Monday, Hamas linked the rioting at the border to the U.S. Embassy move, saying that “Our people came out today to respond to this new American-Zionist aggression.”
“Our Palestinian people rejected this crime with their blood,” it added.
For the sake of Jerusalem, said Hamas, “we will continue the path of jihad and resistance by all means.”
“The move of transferring the American Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing it as an alleged capital of the Zionist entity is an attack on the right of our people in its land and its holy capital.”
Addressing the “martyrs” killed during the day, the terrorist group said, “your blood today washed away the shame of normalization, and washed away the shame of bargaining, and responded to all those who try to make Israel part of the region.”
It expressed the hope, “Allah willing” that Tuesday would see more protests “ignite” the West Bank and “all Palestine” – “to pay the enemy and the American administration the price of the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.”
Israel is facing strong international condemnation over Monday’s loss of life.
In New York, the Arab states represented by Kuwait introduced a draft statement expressing U.N. Security Council “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.”
The draft also called on all states “not to undertake any steps that further aggravate the situation, including any unilateral and unlawful measures undermining the prospects of peace” – an apparent reference to the U.S. Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The U.S. has blocked the statement, but Kuwait has requested an emergency Security Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.
The Arab League also condemned the violence, and has called an extraordinary meeting in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss the “illegal relocation” of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
In its reaction, Turkey’s Islamist government also linked the violence to President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
“Today will go down in the history as Bloody Monday for Muslims and Islamic countries,” deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag announced after a cabinet meeting. “The U.S. has violated U.N. Security Council decisions by opening its embassy in Jerusalem.”
Bozdag announced that Turkey has recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the United States “for consultations.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on a visit to Britain, called Israel a “terror state” and declared three days of national mourning.