A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip May 14, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)
Fifty of the Palestinians killed in a protest in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel earlier this week were Hamas members, Hamas Politburo member Salah Bardaweil said on Wednesday.
A large number of Palestinians in Gaza participated on Monday in a major protest in the border region.
Since March 30, many Palestinians in Gaza have participated in protests in the border region, especially on Fridays, to support the return of Palestinian refugees to their former and ancestral homes in Israel and pressure the Jewish state to lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave.
The IDF described the protests on Monday as “a violent riot,” asserting that participants tried to enter Israel, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at security personnel and placed a bomb near the border fence.
However, international and local rights groups accused Israel of using “excessive force” against “unarmed protesters.”
At least 61 Palestinians were killed on Monday, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
“The number I am telling you is official. Fifty martyrs from Hamas were martyred in this most recent battle,” he told Baladna, a Gaza-based TV station.
Bardaweil did not specify what role the people who he said were Hamas members had in the organization or whether any of them belonged to its armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades.
On Tuesday, the IDF said it and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had identified 24 of the Palestinians killed on Monday as terrorists, mostly belonging to Hamas but also some who were members of Islamic Jihad.
Meanwhile, later on Wednesday, Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar said Egyptian officials told a Hamas delegation that visited the Egyptian capital early this week that Cairo does not want the protests on the border to turn into an armed confrontation between Palestinians and Israel.
“The Egyptian brothers affirmed the importance of this movement remaining peaceful and not turning into armed military confrontation,” Sinwar told Al Jazeera.
He added that Hamas agrees with what he said was Egypt’s position on the protests, but said that the Islamist movement could resort to an armed confrontation with Israel if “circumstances” were to make that necessary.
Sinwar told Palestinian youth in Gaza last week that this past Monday and Tuesday would be “crucial days” in Palestinian history.
While thousands came to the border on Monday, a relatively small number showed up there on Tuesday.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israel Radio that Hamas decided to curb the protests on Tuesday after Egypt warned the Islamist movement of a possible harsh Israeli response if they were to continue.
Sinwar said the protests will continue and that Egyptian officials said Palestinians have the right to continue to participate in them.Reuters contributed to this report.