Washington (AFP) – The White House on Thursday called on Palestinians to engage in peaceful protest and stay 500 meters from Gaza’s border with Israel, after Israeli troops killed 18 Palestinians.
On the eve of fresh demonstrations and amid warnings from the UN that Israel should use “extreme caution,” Donald Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt put the onus squarely on Palestinians.
“The United States strongly urges protest leaders to communicate loudly and clearly that protestors should march peacefully; should abstain from all forms of violence,” he said.
Greenblatt said protestors “should remain outside the 500-meter buffer zone; and should not approach the border fence in any way or any location.”
“We condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors – including children – to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed.”
Israel has warned that its open-fire rules will not change, amid fears of a fresh bout of violence Friday.
Thousands of Palestinians are again expected to gather at five spots near the Gaza border on Friday, while Israeli soldiers and snipers will take up positions on the other side of the fence.
Protest organizers said they were planning to try to stop smaller numbers of protesters approaching the fence and hurling stones or rolling burning tires at Israeli troops, who killed 18 Palestinians last Friday.
It was the bloodiest day since a 2014 war. Another two Gazans have been killed since.
The protests are in support of refugees, including those in the Palestinian enclave who want to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.
The violence would appear to put Trump’s claimed aim of reaching a peace deal between Palestinians and Israelis even further beyond reach.
Palestinians have been infuriated by Trump’s decision to upend decades of US policy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Palestinians also claim the city and have pointed to the decision as evidence of pro-Israel bias.