Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday defended Israel’s handling of deadly clashes on the Gaza border, highlighting statements by Hamas leaders espousing violence.
Israel has come under heavy criticism for its response to the riots Monday and Tuesday, which left 62 Palestinians dead and over 2,700 more injured, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry.
While some Hamas officials have claimed the protests are non-violent, Israel has accused the Islamist terror group of using the so-called March of Return demonstrations over the past several weeks to attempt to breach the border and carry out attacks.
Israel said at least 24 of those killed belonged to terror groups and on Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said 50 of the dead had belonged to his organization, though he did not specify in what capacity.
“I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” said Salah Bardawil.
We are defending our families. And you would do exactly the same.
Posted by The Prime Minister of Israel on Thursday, 17 May 2018
In the Facebook video, the prime minister points to militant rhetoric employed by the group’s leaders to drum up support for the protests, including an interview Sunday with senior member and Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar, who said the terror group was “deceiving the public” by calling the riots peaceful.
He also cites an earlier statement by Hamas in Gaza head Yahya Sinwar who said in April that the point of the protests is to “tear down their border and tear out their hearts.”
“Ready for a real shocker? I completely agree with the leaders of the Hamas terrorist organization who’ve said this over the past few days,” Netanyahu says. “I agree. Shooting guns and lobbing explosives at Israelis isn’t peaceful at all.”
Netanyahu also cites senior official Bardawil, who on Wednesday said 50 of those killed belonged to Hamas.
“The same Hamas that has called for genocide of every single Jew,” Netanyahu says. “I agree that Israel targets terrorists.”
Israel has been engaged over the past several days in trying to defend itself after coming under harsh criticism from around the world over the death toll on the Gaza border, pointing to violence directed against its troops during the protests, which were officially advertised as “peaceful.”
Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF said Sunday that Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “massacre” Israelis.
After the first “March of Return” protests in March, Hamas acknowledged that five of its terrorists were among the fatalities, but it subsequently refrained from acknowledging whether its men were among the dead.
Bardawil’s claim that 50 of those killed were in Hamas was shared Wednesday by Israel Defense’s Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus, who also pointed to it as proof Israel had been targeting terrorists.
“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,” Conricus wrote on Twitter.