Hamas official: 50 of our members killed in Gaza clashes
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)
A top Hamas official said on Wednesday that fifty members of the group were among sixty killed in Monday's clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza-Israel border.
In a television interview circulated by Israeli government social media accounts, Hamas' Salah Bardawil says: "The latest round [Monday and Tuesday], 62 people were killed."
"50 of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?"
Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were "official numbers," but did not give further details about whether they were members of the group's armed or political wing, or what they were doing at the time they were killed.
On Tuesday, Israel's military said it estimated that 24 of those killed were belonged to either Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Albardawil's revelation proved its long-standing claim that Hamas had hijacked the weeks-long protests to carry out acts of terror against Israeli forces and attempt to infiltrate into Israel.
"Hamas lies exposed," army Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus said in a statement, "Senior Hamas official, Salah Albardawil, confirms that 50 of the 62 killed in Monday's riots were Hamas members."
"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."
Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum did not confirm all 50 were members of the Islamist movement.
He told AFP Hamas paid for the funerals for all 50 "whether they are members or supporters of Hamas, or unrelated to the factions."
Bassem Naim, another senior Hamas official, declined to confirm or deny the number but said it was a "large movement and has great popular support".
It was "natural to see members or supporters of Hamas in large numbers" in such a protest, he said, adding that when they were killed they were "participating peacefully" in demonstrations.
Israel has come under mounting international scrutiny over the high number of deaths during the clashes that began in early April and climaxed on Monday to coincide with the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.
Several countries have called in Israeli ambassadors for admonishments and allies such as the United Kingdom and Germany have called for an independent inquiry into the events.
Palestinian officials have accused Israel of carrying out a "massacre" on the border. The IDF insists it only uses live fire according to strict regulations and has come under attack from explosives, gunfire and rocks from participants in the demonstrations.
(Staff with AFP)
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