Palestinians are observing a general strike to mourn dozens killed by Israeli army fire in the deadliest day in Gaza since a 2014 war.

Organisers said the day would be set aside for funerals and that turnout for any new protests on the border with Israel would be low.

Palestinian protesters run for coverPalestinian protesters run for cover (Adel Hana/AP)

The Islamic militant Hamas group, which rules the territory, had initially said mass border protests would continue on Tuesday.

The day marks the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call their “nakba”, or catastrophe — the uprooting of hundreds of thousands in the Middle East war over Israel’s 1948 creation.

Palestinians protest as dignitaries applaud at the opening ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem (AP)Palestinians protest as dignitaries applaud at the opening ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem (AP)

On Monday, the world witnessed scenes of jarring contrast. Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians, most by gunfire, and injured more than 2,700 during protests along the Gaza border, while a few miles away Israel and the US held a festive inauguration ceremony for the new US embassy in contested Jerusalem.

The high toll in Gaza revived international criticism of Israel’s use of lethal force against unarmed protesters, while the opening of the embassy, condemned by Palestinians as blatantly pro-Israel, further dimmed prospects of what President Donald Trump had once touted as plans to negotiate the Middle East “deal of the century”.

The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss the violence, although it is not clear what might come out of the session.

Two UN diplomats said members could not reach unanimous agreement on a proposed statement, circulated by Kuwait, that would have expressed “outrage and sorrow” over the killings and sought an independent investigation.

Medics treat Palestinian children suffering from tear gas inhalationMedics treat Palestinian children suffering from tear gas inhalation (Dusan Vranic/AP)

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.

More than 2,700 were hurt, 1,360 by gunfire, the ministry said. Of the wounded, 130 were in serious or critical condition.

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 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.