Palestinian workers strike after deadly protests on Israeli border

Palestinians observed a strike in Gaza on Tuesday as they attended funerals for the 59 people killed during clashes with Israeli troops — including an 8-month-old girl who was exposed to tear gas, according to reports.

About 2,700 Palestinians were injured Monday — 1,360 by gunfire — during protests that marred the official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem after its relocation from Tel Aviv, the Times of Israel reported, citing health officials in Gaza.

Laila al-Ghandour, the infant girl, died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces east of Gaza City, Palestinian officials said. It was not immediately clear how close she and her family were during the incident.

At the Gaza hospital where Laila’s body was being prepared for burial, her grandmother said the child was at one of the tented protest sites that were set up a few hundred yards inside the border.

“We were at the tent camp east of Gaza when the Israelis fired lots of tear gas,” Heyam Omar told Reuters.

“Suddenly my son cried at me that Lolo was weeping and screaming. I took her farther away. When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep. I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred (dead),” she said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a general strike and three days of national mourning.

Palestinian officials have called Monday’s events a massacre, and Israel’s use of live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide condemnation.

Israel said it acted in self-defense at its borders and communities, as the United States backed its assertion. Both countries said Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the coastal enclave, triggered the violence.

There were fears of further bloodshed Tuesday as additional protests were planned to mark the “Nakba” (“The Catastrophe” in Arabic), the creation of Israel on May 15, 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes.

A six-week campaign of demonstrations dubbed “The Great March of Return” has renewed calls for refugees to have the right of return to their former lands inside Israel.

Israeli troops deployed along the border again Tuesday, but the area remained relatively quiet early in the day as Gazans attended funerals.

In Geneva, the UN human rights office condemned what it called the “appalling deadly violence” by the Israel Defense Forces and said it was very concerned about what might happen later.

UN spokesman Rupert Colville said Israel had a right to defend its borders, but that lethal force must only be used as a last resort, and was not justified by Palestinians approaching the Gaza fence.

With Post wires

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