50 of our own died in clashes, Hamas says
Others killed in Gaza protest ‘from the people’
JERUSALEM • Most of the protesters killed this week by Israeli fire along the border with the Gaza Strip were members of Hamas, the extremist group said Wednesday.
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.”
Hamas is viewed as a terrorist organization by Canada, the U.S. and many other Western countries.
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.
“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 weekly protests peaked on Monday when about 40,000 Gazans descended on the border area. As in previous demonstrations, the protesters burned tires and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops, and tried to attack the border fence. Israeli snipers opened fire in response, killing 59 Palestinians and wounding hundreds.
On Wednesday, Turkey, which has been particularly critical of Israel, appeared to carry out a public humiliation of the Israeli ambassador who has been expelled from the country.
The departing ambassador, Eitan Na’eh, received an uncustomary search at Istanbul airport, including being forced to take off his shoes. Members of the Turkish media were invited to witness the event.
“This is an inappropriate treatment of Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh,” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded.