About 83 percent of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the recent violent demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza Strip border were terrorist operatives or affiliated with terrorist organizations, according to a new report.
The Israel-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) found that at least 112 Palestinians were killed during the Hamas-led riots from March 30 through May 15, and that at least 93 of them were identified as terrorists or associated with a terrorist group.
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Most of the deaths, 63, are from Hamas, the terrorist group in control of Gaza. Another 21 are from Fatah, including military operatives. As for the remaining fatalities, four killed were Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives, three were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and two were connected to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The ITIC, which has close ties to the Israel Defense Forces and is staffed with top former Israeli intelligence officials, could not identify the organizational affiliations of the other 19 fatalities.
The report's findings, released on Monday and updated as of last week, are consistent with statements from top Hamas officials in Gaza. Senior Hamas official Dr. Salah Albardawil said earlier this month that 50 of the 62 Palestinians reported killed in riots at the Gaza border on May 14, the culmination of the demonstrations, and May 15 were members of the Islamist terrorist group. He added that half of all Palestinians killed since late March were Hamas operatives. Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Al-Sinwar, said last week that more than 60 Hamas members died and that "yet other 20 wounded are expected to die at any moment."
For several weeks, thousands of Palestinians have gathered at the Israel-Gaza border for what organizers call the "March of Return." Critics have accused Hamas of using the demonstrations as cover to launch operations to breach Israel's border fence and attack Israelis. The terror group is known to use civilians, including women and children, in operations against Israel.
During the border riots, some Palestinians, including terrorist operatives, attacked Israeli soldiers with Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and they tried to breach the border fence. Some Gazans have launched firebomb-bearing kites over the security fence to attack Israel, often to set ablaze Israeli farmers' crops.
"The ‘return marches' were not ‘popular,' ‘peaceful' events, as falsely presented by Palestinian propaganda, but rather a Hamas strategic move accompanied by preplanned violence," the ITIC report says. "The findings of the examination of the identity of the fatalities and reports from the ground clearly demonstrate that IDF soldiers did not shoot indiscriminately at innocent residents but instead hit terrorist operatives. These operatives were the dominant factor among those in the front line who tried to break into Israeli territory."
The report was released one day before Palestinian militants in Gaza fired dozens of mortar and rockets at Israel, including one shell that fell into the yard of a kindergarten. Israel, which launched airstrikes in Gaza in response to the shelling, accused Islamic Jihad and Hamas of participating in the attack.