Jerusalem, Israel | May 16
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 Wednesday, an admission that deepens the starkly different narratives on both sides over the deaths.
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.
But with the images of rifle-toting Israeli snipers facing off against seemingly unarmed protesters beamed around the world, the remarks by Hamas may do little to convince Israel’s detractors, including the Palestinians.
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 was enough to cement its narrative.
“It was clear to Israel and now it is clear to the whole world that there was no popular protest.