A senior Hamas leader said on Sunday that recent Palestinian riots on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip were backed by the Islamist group’s fighters and weapons.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahhar called allegations that the terrorist group was employing “peaceful resistance” against Israel “a clear terminological deception.”
“When you have weapons that are being wielded by men who were able to prevent the strongest army in the region from entering the Gaza strip for 51 days, and were able to capture or kill soldiers of that army — is this really ‘peaceful resistance?” asked al-Zahhar, whose remarks were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
“When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public,” he said. “This is peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has actively encouraged Palestinians to participate in the series of border riots dubbed the “Great March of Return.” The campaign was launched in March with the aim of pressuring Israel to allow Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Independence War and their five million descendants into Israel.
Around 40,000 Palestinians participated in the riots on Monday, when the US opened its embassy in Jerusalem. Sixty people were killed by Israeli forces, including several minors, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry announced. More than 2,500 others were reported injured, among them a Canadian-Palestinian doctor and over a dozen paramedics.
Some demonstrators were filmed throwing rocks and firebombs, burning tires, and flying flaming kites into Israeli territory. The Israeli military said others opened fire on its soldiers or attempted to place improvised explosive devices along the border.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, “at least 24 terrorists” were among the fatalities. “Most were active Hamas terror organization operatives, and some were active operatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” the IDF announced.
The Israeli military has also released footage of what it said was a thwarted attempt by eight armed Hamas terrorists to cross into Israeli territory from northern Gaza.
Israeli officials have accused Hamas of using the riots as cover to breach the border fence and carry out attacks in Israel. Yet a number of governments have raised concern about the IDF’s use of force on the Gaza border, with Turkey and South Africa recalling their ambassadors and others requesting an international probe.
Read More: Algemeiner