Hamas official Salah Bardawil may have destroyed the narrative that Israel is indiscriminately killing non-violent protesters at the Gaza border. The vast majority of Palestinians killed, Bardawil told a Palestinian interviewer, were Hamas fighters.
"In the last rounds of confrontations, if 62 people were martyred, 50 of them were Hamas," Bardawil said in a televised interview on Wednesday.
"I am giving you an official figure," he added, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
A day earlier, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also claimed that the IDF killed three terrorists from its military wing in Khan Younis.
Israeli officials previously estimated that at least 24 of those Palestinians killed were part of Hamas or PIJ. That includes eight members of an armed cell of Hamas operatives trying to infiltrate Israel who were killed during Monday's clashes at the border.
Both Hamas and PIJ published photos eulogizing some of the dead terrorists as martyrs.
While some cast the latest clashes as a reaction to the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem, they follow weeks of violent protests at Israel's border with Gaza. From late March through the end of April, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center found that 80 percent of the Palestinians killed were terrorist operatives or affiliates.
Most were tied to Hamas, but 10 of the terrorists killed during that time period were Fatah members.
Earlier this week, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar acknowledged that the Gaza demonstrations were "not peaceful resistance" and Hamas's efforts at the border are "bolstered by a military force and by security agencies."
"This is a clear terminological deception [i.e. "peaceful resistance"]. When you are in possession of weapons that were able to withstand the occupation in the wars of 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014 . . . This is not peaceful resistance . . . so when we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public," Al-Zahhar said in a May 13 interview with Al-Jazeera and reported by MEMRI.
Several killed Hamas members were sons of prominent Hamas officials, including deputy labor minister Musa al-Sambak. Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh's son and two of his nephews were also wounded in the clashes, according to a Meir Amit analysis.
By organizing and promoting the riots, Hamas officials literally sacrificed their own children's lives and safety for a propaganda victory.
This type of behavior is consistent with Hamas' strategy of sabotaging its own people's livelihood to prioritize its fight against Israel.
Steven Emerson is executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He was a correspondent for CNN and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. Read more reports from Steve Emerson — Click Here Now.
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