Palestinians bury their dead after protest

1 / 3

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS CLASHES

Funerals are underway in Gaza for the 60 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military

Palestinians are observing a general strike to mourn and bury the dozens killed by Israeli gun fire on what was the bloodiest day in Gaza since a devastating 2014 war with turnout at border protests likely to be low, organisers say.

Initially militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said border protests would continue on Tuesday to mark 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.

In jarringly contrasting scenes on Monday, Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians, mostly by gunfire, and injured more than 2,700 others during mass protests along the Gaza-Israel border, while just a few kilometres away Israel and the US held a festive inauguration ceremony for the new American Embassy in contested Jerusalem.

The high casualty toll has revived international criticism of Israel's use of lethal force against unarmed protesters, while the opening of the US Embassy - condemned by Palestinians as blatantly pro-Israel - further dimmed prospects of Middle East peace.

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the violence, though it's not clear what will come from the session. Two UN diplomats said members were not able to reach unanimous agreement on issuing a proposed statement 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.

The Gaza Health Ministry said 58 Palestinians were killed on Monday, including 57 by Israeli fire and a baby who died from tear gas inhalation.

Israel has defended its actions, saying troops were defending its border. It also accused Hamas militants of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of the protests.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday that its aircraft had struck 11 "terror targets" in a Hamas military compound a day earlier, and that tanks targeted two Hamas posts. It said protesters used 10 explosive devices and firebombs against troops and that shots were fired at soldiers positioned along the border.

Khaled Batsh, the head of the grassroots organising committee of the protests, said Tuesday would be set aside for funerals and a general strike, suggesting that there were no plans for renewed mass protests that day.

A senior Hamas official said that while protests would continue, turnout would likely be low as Gaza residents were busy with funerals. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the group's deliberations with the media.