Pro­test­ers killed in Gaza were mainly ours: Ha­mas

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - World -

Most of the pro­test­ers killed this week by Is­raeli fire along the bor­der with the Gaza Strip were mem­bers of Ha­mas, the mil­i­tant group said yes­ter­day.

Is­rael, which has faced blis­ter­ing in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism over its re­sponse, is likely to latch on to the re­marks to bol­ster its claims that Ha­mas has used the weekly bor­der protests as cover to stage at­tacks.

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 on Mon­day were Ha­mas mem­bers, with the oth­ers be­ing “from the peo­ple”.

Mr Bar­dawil did not elab­o­rate on the na­ture of their mem­ber­ship in the group and his claim could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied. It was un­clear if the pro­test­ers he was re­fer­ring to were mil­i­tants or civil­ian sup­port­ers of the Is­lamic group, which rules Gaza and op­poses Is­rael’s ex­is­tence.

The af­fil­i­a­tion may mat­ter lit­tle to those who say Is­rael’s re­sponse to the protests was heavy-handed.

Pales­tinian of­fi­cials say the vast ma­jor­ity of the ca­su­al­ties were un­armed pro­test­ers. One Is­raeli sol­dier was wounded.

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