Amid allegations of excessive use of force by Israeli soldiers in quelling violent Hamas-sponsored demonstrations on the Gaza border, a media watchdog group said on Wednesday that approximately 80 percent of the 32 Palestinians killed so far by the IDF were either terrorists or associated with terrorist organizations.
A report published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center said that of those 26 killed, 9 belonged to military terror cells and 4 served in Gazan security services. The other 17 were linked to terror activities based on public statements made by various terror groups taking credit for the loyalties or activities of those individuals.
The remaining 6 Palestinians killed had no known association with any terror group or activity and were presumed to be civilians.
The Meir Amit Center is a respected source of information about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in large part due to its being staffed by former Israeli intelligence officials and
those with connections to current military intelligence, according to The Jerusalem Post.
During the past two weeks, as many as 30,000 demonstrators have answered the call from Hamas to gather at the Gaza border in a series of events scheduled to end on May 15.
Hamas claims that the protests are peaceful, but Israel does not accept their statements.
“The IDF views with great severity the Hamas terror organization endeavors to turn the security fence [perimeter] into a combat zone while attempting to damage security and defense infrastructure,” the army said in a statement Monday.
The Palestinian casualties have prompted international criticism of Israel.
On Sunday, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced her intention to launch a preliminary probe to determine whether the evidence warranted a full-scale investigation into any alleged crimes committed by Israel or Hamas.
In addition, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called upon Israel to exercise “extreme caution” in putting down rioting on the border. The U.N. human rights spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell warned that unjustified use of live ammunition against civilians could put Israel in violation of the fourth Geneva convention.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem issued a rare appeal to Israeli soldiers to refuse “grossly illegal” orders to shoot unarmed protesters.
Israel has responded that IDF soldiers are instructed to open fire only when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations or attempted attacks. It accuses Hamas of using the demonstrations, which demand a so-called “right of return” for Palestinians, as a pretext for violence.