Hamas claims most killed at Gaza border were supporters
A top Hamas official said Wednesday that the vast majority of protesters killed by Israeli fire during protests on the Gaza border this week belonged to the militant Islamic group.
Salah Bardawil said 50 of the 62 protesters killed by Israeli Defense Forces were members of the Iranian-backed group, which controls Gaza and which Israel and the US blamed for instigating the violence.
“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” he told Baladna TV, a private Palestinian news outlet.
The statement could bolster Israeli claims that Hamas had used weekly mass border protests as cover to stage attacks.
Organizers said the wave of border protests is meant in large part to break a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt when Hamas seized power in 2007.
Since the Hamas-led protests began on March 30, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,500 have been wounded by live fire, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Palestinian officials had said the vast majority of the casualties were unarmed protesters.
Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum did not confirm all 50 were members of the Islamist movement — but said that Hamas paid for the funerals for all 50 “whether they are members or supporters of Hamas, or unrelated to the factions,” the Times of Israel reported.
An IDF spopkesman said the admission confirmed that Hamas — which the US has designated a terrorist group — was behind the protests.
“This proves what so many have tried to ignore: Hamas is behind these riots, and the branding of the riots as ‘peaceful protests’ could not be further from the truth,” said IDF spokeman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
Meanwhile, more than 200 Palestinian and Cypriot left-wing protesters staged a peaceful march to the Israeli Embassy in the Cypriot capital to condemn what they say is Israel’s aggression against Palestinians and the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Also Wednesday, Iranian state media reported that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had condemned the killing of Palestinians by Israel, saying, “Palestinians are fighting for their homeland.”
Rouhani also said Iran will always support Palestinians’ rights.
“We will always stand against aggressors and oppressors and believe that the ultimate victory belongs to the oppressed and Palestinians,” he said.
Hundreds of hard-line Iranian students gathered in front of the former US embassy to show their anger over the deaths of nearly 60 Palestinians along the Gaza border Monday.
They also condemned the United States for its support of Israel and burned flags of both countries, shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”