Ha­mas: Most pro­test­ers slain in Gaza were its mem­bers

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD 2 -

JERUSALEM — Most of the pro­test­ers killed this week by Is­raeli gun­fire along the Gazan bor­der were mem­bers of Ha­mas, the mil­i­tant group said Wed­nes­day, an as­ser­tion that deep­ens the starkly dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives on both sides over the deaths.

Is­rael, which has faced blis­ter­ing in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism over its re­sponse, pointed to the re­marks to sup­port its claims that Ha­mas has used the weekly bor­der protests as cover to stage at­tacks.

But hu­man rights groups say the iden­tity of slain pro­test­ers, in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble af­fil­i­a­tion to a mil­i­tant group, is ir­rel­e­vant if they were un­armed and did not pose an im­me­di­ate threat to the lives of sol­diers.

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.

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 have deemed Is­rael’s re­sponse to the protests to be heavy-handed. For Is­rael, it be­came ev­i­dence.

“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.

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.”

Is­rael on Wed­nes­day wel­comed an­other em­bassy in Jerusalem just two days af­ter the land­mark move by the United States.

The rib­bon cut­ting by Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Jimmy Mo­rales marked the first na­tion to join the United States in mak­ing the move to Jerusalem and for­mally rec­og­niz­ing the con­tested city as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

Sim­i­lar to the U.S. Em­bassy in­au­gu­ra­tion, the Gu­atemalan event brought Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and prom­i­nent in­ter­na­tional sup­port­ers of Is­rael, in­clud­ing GOP megadonor Shel­don Adel­son and a smat­ter­ing of evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers.

The Gu­atemalan af­fair was more lowkey by com­par­i­son; its new office was barely big enough to hold all the guests.

In­for­ma­tion from The Wash­ing­ton Post was in­cluded in this re­port.

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