50 of our own died in clashes, Ha­mas says

Oth­ers killed in Gaza protest ‘from the peo­ple’

Edmonton Journal - - WORLD - TIA GOLD­EN­BERG AND FARES AKRAM

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.

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