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  • Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border.

    Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli fire during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 May 2018

At least 52 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire as the army unleashed live ammunition at thousands of unarmed protesters across the Gaza-Israel border.

The South African government has condemned "in the strongest terms possible" the latest violence in Gaza and withdrawn its ambassador to Israel after the country’s troops killed at least 50 and injured more than 1,700 unarmed Palestinians who were protesting the U.S. move of its embassy to Jerusalem.

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In a statement on Monday evening, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said this act of aggression resulted in scores of Palestinian deaths, injuries and destruction to property.

"Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attacks, the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect and until further notice," Dirco added.

"As we have stated on previous occasions, South Africa reiterates its view that the Israeli Defence Force must withdraw from the Gaza Strip and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories. South Africa maintains further that the violence in the Gaza Strip will stand in the way of rebuilding Palestinian institutions and infrastructure."

According to health officials, at least 52 Palestinians have been killed along the Gaza Strip during demonstrations against the beginning of the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

It was the highest Palestinian death toll in a single day since a series of protests dubbed the "Great March of Return" began at the border with Israel on March 30, and since the 2014 Gaza war.

The health officials said over 2,000 Palestinians were wounded, about 450 of them by live bullets.

Tens of thousands streamed to the coastal enclave's land border Monday, some approaching the Israeli fence. Clouds of black smoke from tyres set alight by demonstrators rose in the air. The latest casualties raised the Palestinian death toll to 55 since the protests began on March 30.

Reacting to the brutal crackdown on on Gaza protesters, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said via Twitter that Israeli live fire must stop immediately and the international community must bring those responsible to justice.

“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in #Gaza must stop now," Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein wrote in a message carried on the U.N. human rights Twitter account. "The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The int'l community needs to ensure justice for victims - #Zeid.”

The Palestinian government said Israel, the occupying Power, was fully responsible for the grave escalation now transpiring in the Gaza Strip. “This disproportionate and illegal use of lethal force against unarmed civilian protesters is criminal,” Palestine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in a statement Monday.

The Israeli brutal crackdown and the major Monday protest in Gaza come a day the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding which is known for Palestinians as Nakba Day or “catastrophe” which resulted in some 700,000 people force fleeing their homes in 1948.

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