As US blames Hamas for Gaza deaths, world condemns Israel
White House iterates support for Israel in wake of Gaza Strip riots, says 'no justification for Hamas recklessness, cynicism'; South Africa recalls ambassador after condemning Israel's 'violent aggression on Gaza border'; UN Security Council to convene to discuss riots, deaths of 52 Palestinians.
The White House blamed Hamas leaders Monday evening for the deadly violence in Gaza earlier in the day—in which 52 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,200 wounded—and said Israel has a right to defend itself.
"There is no justification for the recklessness and cynicism Hamas has shown in urging people to engage in violence that exposes them to terrible risk. As the Secretary of State has said, Israel has a right to defend itself," a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a statement.
The official further maintained a solution needed to be found to the "serious humanitarian challenges facing Palestinians" in Gaza.
Conversely, the South African government has decided to recall its ambassador to Israel after issuing a harsh condemnation of "Israeli armed forces' violent aggression on the Gaza border."
The Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that the ambassador has indeed been called back, and will fly back to the African country Monday night.
The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said that the Gazan casualties were "taking part in a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem."
"Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack," the department's statement continued, "the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice."
The statement further called on Israel to "withdraw from the Gaza Strip and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories", adding that the violence in the strip may scuttle the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions and infrastructures alike.
"The routine actions of Israeli forces present yet another obstacle to a permanent resolution to the conflict," South Africa alleged, "which must come in the form of two states—Palestine and Israel—existing side by side in peace."
"Like other members of the international community, South Africa is disturbed by the latest deadly aggression and reiterates calls for an independent inquiry into the killings, with a view to holding to account those who are responsible," the statement concluded.
Fifty-two Palestinians, eight children among them, were killed Monday after coming close to the Gaza border fence. Some 40,000 people demonstrated in the area, and 1,204 were wounded, according to Gaza medical sources—marking the highest Palestinian single-day death toll since Operation Protective Edge.
The IDF attacked a series of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets using aircraft and tanks, in retaliation to Palestinians shooting and lobbing explosives at IDF forces earlier.
The Palestinian Authority has declared three national days of mourning starting Tuesday, and a general strike on Tuesday itself.
UN Security Council to convene on Gaza
The United Nations Security Council will convene later Monday or Tuesday at Kuwait's behest for an emergency discussion on the Gaza riots and the US Embassy's move.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour urged the council Monday to condemn the killings. Speaking to reporters, Mansour called the Israel military response a "savage onslaught" and an "atrocity."
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon has begun a round of talks with his counterparts in anticipation of the meeting, and has been disseminating materials outlining Hamas's terrorist actions.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, said Britain was concerned by reports of violence on the Gaza border and urged restraint.
"We are concerned by the reports of violence and loss of life in Gaza. We urge calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts," he told reporters. "The UK remains firmly committed to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital."
He also said May would raise human rights with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan at talks on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Europe, the European Union's foreign policy chief called on Israel to respect the "principle of proportionality in the use of force."
Federica Mogherini said Monday that all should act "with utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life" and added that "Israel must respect the right to peaceful protest."
At the same time, she insisted that Hamas must make sure demonstrators in Gaza are peaceful and "must not exploit them for other means."
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, for his part, called on Israel and the Palestinians to "act responsible and avoid escalation." Israel, he added, must "exercise restraint in its use of force."
Other European foreign ministers said the US decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem is unwise and likely to exacerbate tensions.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Monday that the move "is inflaming already a very tense situation, and the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians."
His Dutch counterpart, Stef Blok, said "we don't consider it a wise decision to move the embassy."
Their comments come after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania blocked the full 28-nation European Union from publishing a statement about the US move.
Russia joined the condemnation of the embassy move, saying it will inflame tensions in the region. Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov called the decision "short-sighted."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.