Hamas admits most Gaza protesters killed were terrorists

Associated Press

JERUSALEM (May 16, 2018) — The Hamas terrorist group has confessed that most of the protesters killed this week by Israeli fire along the border with the Gaza Strip were members of Hamas.

In an interview with Baladna TV, a private Palestinian news outlet that broadcasts via Facebook, senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil said 50 out of the nearly 60 protesters killed Monday were Hamas members, with the others being "from the people."

Bardawil did not elaborate on the nature of their membership in the group and his claim could not be independently verified. 

For Israel, it was enough to cement its defense that its soldiers were simply responding to the aggressive acts of the terrorist group.

"It was clear to Israel and now it is clear to the whole world that there was no popular protest. This was an organized mob of terrorists organized by Hamas," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had tallied similar numbers to Hamas and "won't let those who call for our destruction to breach our borders and to threaten our communities."

In response to the uproar over his remarks, Bardawil later said in a statement that Israel was "legitimizing the killing of Palestinians just because they are Palestinians or just because they are Hamas, even if they were unarmed and defending their dignity and rights."

The Israeli army has staunchly defended its actions. It points to the violent history of Hamas, says there have been shootings and bombing attacks against its forces, and fears a mass border breach.

On Tuesday, the army released a video that showed protesters detonating several explosions near the border. It also said its forces had killed a squad of Hamas gunmen who opened fire at troops.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said 14 of those killed Monday were actively involved in carrying out attacks.

Israel says it uses live fire only as a last resort. Snipers are supposed to aim at protesters' legs and can shoot only with approval from a commander.

Hamas' statement comes at a moment when Israel finds itself largely isolated over its response to the protests.

The U.S. was among the few countries that came to Israel's defense, backing its right to protect its border on the same day that it countered international disapproval of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as capital of their hoped-for state and vehemently oppose the U.S. move, recalled their ambassadors to four European countries that had supported it.

On Wednesday, Guatemala followed the U.S. lead, festively opening its new Jerusalem mission with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales saying his country was bringing a message of "love, peace and fraternity" to Israel. Paraguay said it also will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras have said they are considering doing the same.

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