The protests in Gaza over the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, in which Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators, have already claimed over 60 lives. After scores were killed, the Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization Hamas, which rules the territory, called for a general strike. A day after the protests, Palestinians commemorated the Nakba, the 1948 Palestinian exodus that was literally a disaster, when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes upon the creation of the state of Israel 70 years ago.
Head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini called on all sides to act with “utmost restraint” and urged both sides to return to negotiations, saying that the European Union was committed to facilitate, and foster peace in the Middle East. She also warned that “any further escalation of an already extremely tense and complex situation would cause again further unspeakable sufferings to both peoples, and will make the perspective of peace and security even more remote.” Urging Israel to “respect the right to peaceful protest and the principle of proportionality in the use of force,” Ms. Mogherini then also stressed that “Hamas and those leading the demonstrations in Gaza must ensure that they remain strictly non-violent and must not exploit them for other means.”
Ms. Mogherini’s comments come amid EU divisions over how to respond to US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Three EU member states – Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic – have recently blocked an EU statement criticizing the relocation. The White House has not urged Israel to be cautious in its response to the protests, in contrast to the response by European countries including France and Britain. Having abandoned an international nuclear deal with Iran, this marks the second time in a week that Washington distanced itself from the EU.