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Palestinians bury dead after bloodiest Gaza day since 2014

AP  |  Gaza City 

Palestinians observed a strike today to mourn dozens killed by Israeli troops in a mass protest on the border the single deadliest day there since a 2014 war and part of a high-stakes campaign by Gaza's rulers to break a decade-long border blockade.

In Monday's protest, Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians, most by gunfire, and injured more than 2,700, health officials said. In jarring contrast, the U.S. held a festive inauguration ceremony for a new in contested just a few miles away.

The juxtaposition of bloodshed on the border and festivities attended by a high-powered delegation captured on split screens in TV broadcasts around the world briefly drew attention to the plight of Gaza and its 2 million people.

The high casualty toll also revived international criticism of Israel's use of lethal force against unarmed protesters. At the same time, the opening of the embassy, condemned by Palestinians as blatantly pro-Israel, further dimmed prospects of what had once touted as plans to negotiate the Mideast "deal of the century." The planned to meet Tuesday to discuss the violence, though it was not clear what might come out of the session.

Two UN diplomats said members couldn't reach unanimous agreement on issuing a proposed statement, circulated by Kuwait, that would have expressed "outrage and sorrow" over the killings and sought an independent investigation.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were supposed to be private.

For Hamas, the Islamic militant group that seized Gaza in 2007, Monday's border protest was the culmination of a weeks-long campaign to try to break the blockade. The group led weekly protests near the border with since late March as part of this push.

On Tuesday, there were no signs that had made a breakthrough in shaking off the blockade that was imposed by and in 2007. In a sign of an easing, extended the opening of its border crossing with Gaza, initially set to continue for four days, by two more days, until Thursday. Typically, the Rafah crossing is closed for most of the year.

In recent days, there had been negotiations between and Hamas, presumably on easing the blockade in exchange for ending the protests.

has said protests would continue in a weekly format, but it was not clear if it would be able to maintain momentum during the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins this week.

Protest organizers said Tuesday was set aside for funerals, in an apparent attempt to lower expectation of another mass protest later in the day.

Hamas had initially said mass border protests would continue Tuesday, which marks the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call their "nakba," or catastrophe the uprooting of hundreds of thousands in the Mideast war over Israel's 1948 creation.

The border marches are seen as Hamas' last hope of ending the blockade that has made it increasingly difficult for the group to govern. Other tactics, including three cross-border wars with in a decade and reconciliation with Hamas' Palestinian rival, West Bank-based Mahmoud Abbas, have failed.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 15 2018. 15:20 IST