A Hamas official on Wednesday acknowledged that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed during Gaza border riots on Monday and Tuesday were members of the Islamist terrorist group, bringing the total number of known members of terror groups among the fatalities up to 53.
“In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” said Hamas official Salah Bardawil in an interview with the Palestinian Baladna news outlet.
Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official numbers.
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.
The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad had said on Tuesday that three members of its Saraya al-Quds military wing were killed by Israeli forces in Khan Younis.
The Israeli military shared a portion of Bardawil’s interview with an Arabic news outlet, accompanied by English captions.
“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,” said IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, 62 people in total were killed during border clashes on Monday and Tuesday.
Israel has not put out its own official death toll, but officials have questioned the accuracy of the Hamas-provided figure. In one case, a Gazan doctor told the Associated Press that an 8-month-old baby, who the Gaza ministry said died after inhaling Israeli tear gas on Monday, had a preexisting medical condition and that he did not believe her death was caused by tear gas.
Read More: Times of Israel