• The death toll in the protests on Monday, in which Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators, reached 60 overnight and one person was reported killed on Tuesday.
• The center of Gaza City was calm after the militant group Hamas, which rules the territory, called for a general strike.
• The number of protesters was a fraction of what it had been the day before as Hamas scaled down the demonstrations but held out the threat of military action.
Images of an 8-month-old Palestinian girl who died during protests at the Israel-Gaza border fence circulated widely on social media on Tuesday, fueling outrage over a lethal Israeli response that left at least 58 dead and thousands wounded.
But the day after the baby, Layla Ghandour, died on Monday, the details of her death were challenged by some, becoming another example of how the competing narratives surrounding the conflict and the power of images have influenced debate.
The child’s family said she died from inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during the protests. She was with her family nearby as the Israeli military sought to keep back thousands of Palestinian protesters storming the fence.
On Tuesday, Avichay Adraee, an Arabic-language spokesman for the Israeli military, posted a message on Twitter that said there was “fundamental doubt about the credibility” of that account.
“We have several testimonies questioning the authenticity of this statement,” he tweeted without providing additional details. The Associated Press cited an unnamed Gaza-based doctor as saying on Tuesday that the baby had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by the tear gas.
Her story is a reminder of the power of images, particularly those of children caught up in conflict. In Syria, the face of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh covered in dust and blood became a symbol of Aleppo’s suffering. As tens of thousands of refugees flooded Europe, the photos of the lifeless body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi washing up on Turkey’s coast prompted both outrage and action.
In the latest chapter, photos of the parents clutching the lifeless body of the baby girl in Gaza spread on social media, and her story became a rallying cry for those denouncing Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian protesters.
The child’s parents have given interviews to journalists and aid workers in Gaza recounting how their daughter died. A tweet from Steve Sosebee, who works with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, suggested that they confirmed their daughter had an underlying health condition.
Hamas dialed back the protests on Tuesday, and the mosque loudspeakers that had urged Gazans to protest on Monday were largely silent. In Gaza City, the biggest protest area on Monday, only a few hundred protesters came close to the border fence.
Shortly before sunset, the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya appeared and was thronged with supporters.
“We don’t want peaceful protests, we want rockets fired,” they chanted. “Revenge, Revenge!”
Mr. Haniya smiled and clenched his fists in the air, but was vague about the group’s next step.
“The Great Return protests and the raids on the border by our youth are proof that we have confused the enemy,” he said. “We will continue with the protests, and it is the Palestinian people who will decide the situation on the ground.”
Speaking separately, his nephew, Muhammad Haniya, also a Hamas leader, said Hamas was satisfied with the surge of international sympathy for Gazans the protests elicited. But he warned that Hamas could easily return to violence if that sympathy did not convert into an easing of the 11-year-old Israeli blockade of the territory.
“We cannot be patient for much longer after all these deaths,” he said. “If the world does not intervene, I do not think that Hamas can remain silent, and our armed resistance will respond.”
For now, he said, the protests would continue every Friday.
As of Tuesday evening, Hamas had not taken military action. And there were signs behind the scenes that Hamas could be looking for a way to bring a halt to the bloodshed, if not the entire protest campaign.
One well-informed Middle Eastern government official, who insisted on anonymity, said Hamas officials had been surprised by the number of casualties on Monday, but did not wish for the kind of escalation of hostilities that some Gazans were demanding in response. Hamas had failed in its goal of infiltrating Israel and harming or kidnapping an Israeli, the official said, but might be willing to settle for having revived international interest in the Palestinian cause. — Declan Walsh and David M. Halbfinger
Gaza awoke on Tuesday to a grim agenda: funerals for protesters killed along the fence bordering Israel, including one for an 8-month-old baby girl whose family said she was overcome by tear gas; and frenzied work treating the thousands of wounded, in hospitals so overrun with patients that tents were set up in their courtyards.
There was also uncertainty about whether the demonstrations would grow, fade, or give way to an outright armed conflict. The death toll in the protests reached 60 overnight.
The demonstrations on Monday, the latest in a series intended to spotlight anger on the blockade that has inflicted economic misery on the residents of Gaza, coincided with the formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another source of grievance for Palestinians.
A day after the protests, Palestinians commemorated the Nakba, the expulsion or flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes upon the creation of the state of Israel 70 years ago. Large protests in Gaza and in the West Bank had been planned, but in the wake of Monday’s bloodshed, a more subdued approach appeared to have taken hold.
In downtown Gaza City, the streets were quiet, largely because Hamas, the militant group that controls the territory, had ordered a general strike. Shops were closed, though the streets were not entirely deserted because people were streaming to mosques for midday funerals of those killed on Monday. — Isabel Kershner and Declan Walsh
Early in the demonstrations, which began on March 30, organizers had called for a climax on Tuesday, but by late afternoon, only small protests had materialized along the border, in sharp contrast to the vast crowds there on Monday.
At the biggest protest area, east of Gaza City, the gathering numbered in the hundreds, rather than the thousands. Only a few dozen people ventured close to the border fence, including young men with slingshots and a group of eight women chanting slogans.
Protesters had rolled tires toward the fence, and sent a few burning kites across the barrier. Twice on Tuesday afternoon, an Israeli drone flew over the demonstrators and dropped tear gas canisters.
Nasser Ghurab, 51, was shot dead on Tuesday near the border, said Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry. He said that the Israeli military has killed 109 Palestinians in Gaza in nearly seven weeks of protests, and wounded thousands, many of them with live ammunition.
On the Israeli side of the fence, a field was set alight, apparently by one of the Palestinian kites. But for the most part, a tense, almost pastoral calm prevailed.
At a protest site between the cities of Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, in the northern part of Gaza, no protesters could be seen at midday. Across the fence, Israeli emergency firefighting teams sat idle. The only trace of the previous day’s events on the Israeli side were scorched patches of ground where kites had set wheat fields on fire.
Soldiers and other onlookers were left to wonder whether some kind of a deal had been struck overnight: After all, they noted, the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza, a main point to transport goods into the territory that had been damaged three times by protesters, was abruptly reopened just days after Israeli officials said it had been almost destroyed.
Dozens killed, thousands injured. The deadliest day in Gaza in years. We witness it, riding alongside this team of volunteer paramedics. For weeks Palestinians have organized protests here, at times threatening to breach the border fence that has sustained the blockade of this strip. Israeli soldiers have responded with tear gas and sniper fire. On quieter days ambulances would wait for a call to come in, directing them to the injured. But today, it seems like everywhere they go there’s someone to be picked up, a constant stream of stretchers. As we drive away from the front line, the commotion begins to settle. The ride back and forth starts to feel like a drill, without panic or surprise. Some of the wounded are taken to a field clinic for immediate treatment. Other victims are taken to Gaza City’s main hospital. This isn’t the same hospital we saw just a few days ago. Outside the main building a new tent serves as a makeshift emergency room. Doctors here say they were expecting to see more injuries. But still there aren’t enough beds. Most of the injuries are below the knee. Israeli soldiers have orders to aim at ankles, and many of the people we see here will leave on crutches, some with permanent disabilities. Back at the protest camp the paramedics keep their distance from the front line. But, even then it isn’t safe.
Israeli Palestinians planned demonstrations for Tuesday evening in Umm el-Fahm, Majd el-Krum and in the Negev, and marches were expected in the cities of Haifa, Nazareth, Tel Aviv and a handful of smaller places. — Iyad Abuheweila, Isabel Kershner, Declan Walsh and Ibrahim El-Mughraby.
The Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement that “at least 24 terrorists with documented terrorism backgrounds were killed” on Monday.
The military said that most of the 24 were “active operatives” of Hamas, while some were affiliated with another group, Islamic Jihad. The military also said that it had thwarted an attempt by three Hamas cells to cross the fence into Israel under cover of the chaos, but it did not say whether it had killed any of them.
The Israeli military also did say not what, if anything, it knew about the affiliations or history of the majority of the Palestinians killed.
The statement illustrated the radically different language used by the two sides. What Palestinians called peaceful demonstrations, the Israeli military described as “violent riots,” and it referred to those who gathered as “rioters.” People the Israeli authorities call militants and terrorists, Hamas calls martyrs. — Isabel Kershner
United Nations human rights officials said on Tuesday that Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators was unjustified and called for an independent investigation into what could be grave breaches of international law.
“We condemn the appalling deadly violence in Gaza yesterday,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, told reporters. “We are extremely worried about what may happen later today,” he said. “We urge maximum restraint. Enough is enough.”
International law allowed for the use of lethal force only as a last resort in the face of an immediate threat to life or serious injury, Mr. Colville noted. Those laws “appear to have been ignored again and again,” he added.
“An attempt to approach, or crossing or damaging the green line fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition,” he added. “It seems anyone is liable to be shot dead or injured.”
The United Nations Human Rights office called for independent and transparent investigations into all cases of death and injury since March 30, a period in which it said 112 Palestinians had been killed, including 14 children, and thousands more wounded. — Nick Cumming-Bruce
In the West Bank, sirens sounded at noon for 70 seconds to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe.
As in past years, this was a holiday for Palestinians, with schools and government offices closed, though bakeries, gas stations and pharmacies, among other shops, remained open.
In Clock Square in Ramallah, also known as Yasir Arafat Square — where a statue shows a young man clambering up a pole to raise the flag of Palestine over Jerusalem — life briefly came to a halt.
A short while later, a small group of Palestinians and Israeli security forces clashed at a checkpoint between Ramallah and the Jewish settlement of Beit El.
Violence was also reported in the early afternoon in Hebron and Bethlehem, where police officers were said to be firing rubber bullets at protesters.
The Israeli military said that 1,300 Palestinians were taking part in “violent riots” in 18 locations, “rolling burning tires and hurling rocks and firebombs at security forces.”
— David M. Halbfinger, Rami Nazzal and Isabel Kershner
The White House staunchly defended Israel’s actions, while several nations condemned them, but much of the official reaction around the world was more muted, voicing horror at the bloodshed but not assigning blame.
“I am profoundly alarmed and concerned by the sharp escalation of violence and the number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is imperative that everyone shows the utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life.”
South Africa and Turkey recalled their ambassadors to Israel in protest, and Turkey also withdrew its ambassador to the United States. On Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador, Eitan Na’eh, and “notified him that it would be appropriate for him to return to his country for a while,” Hami Aksoy, a ministry spokesman, said.
The government of Saudi Arabia, whose icy relations with Israel have thawed in recent years, issued “strong condemnation and denunciation of the deadly targeting of unarmed Palestinians by the Israeli Forces of Occupation,” according to the official news agency S.P.A.
The Trump administration echoed the Israeli position. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Monday.
At the U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday, the ambassador from Kuwait — the only Arab nation currently on the council — denounced what he called “a massacre perpetrated by the Israeli authorities.”
Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi also criticized the Security Council for not agreeing to Kuwait’s request for an independent investigation of the Gaza deaths, adding that his country might instead seek an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Office. Diplomats said that Kuwait had circulated a statement calling for an independent inquiry, which would require unanimous approval, but the United States had disagreed.
Defending Israel, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States denounced what she called the double standard that other nations applied to Israel. “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” she asked. No country, she said, acted “with more restraint than Israel.”
She said that Hamas had been to blame for inciting protesters to storm the fence, and insisted that there had been no connection between the violence and celebrations on Monday for the opening of the American embassy. President Trump’s recognition of the Israeli position that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, she said, “makes peace more achievable, not less.”
Addressing the council, Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for Middle East peace, found fault with both sides.
“Israel has a responsibility to calibrate its use of force, to not use lethal force, except as a last resort, under imminent threat of death or serious injury,” he said. He added that Hamas “must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations; its operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians.”
Thousands of Palestinian refugees rallied in southern Lebanon on Tuesday in commemoration of the “Nakba” and in solidarity with the Gaza demonstrations.
Many were bused in from the longstanding refugee camps of Lebanon.
Palestinians have a complicated history with Lebanon. The influx of refugees in 1948 exacerbated Lebanon’s delicate sectarian balance and their presence is often cited as a major contributing factor to Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.
Now, more than 450,000 of five million registered Palestinian refugees worldwide live in Lebanon. Legally, their rights are limited: Palestinians cannot own property or attend public schools, and are banned from working in more than 30 professions.