During the recent protests in Gaza, 50 or more protesters were killed by the Israeli military. Israel's official position, as I understand it, is that the majority were members of Hamas or another militant organization. I believe Hamas also claims that most of the people killed were members of Hamas.

This seems possible, but I'm unsure of these statements. Perhaps Israel wants to avoid the appearance of having killed civilians, or perhaps Hamas wants to make their support base seem larger than it is.

What was the affiliation of the protesters killed in the recent Gaza protests? Did most of them belong to Hamas or not? If so, to what extent?

Note: I'm not asking whether belonging to Hamas is a bad thing, or whether it's justification for shooting someone. I'm only interested in whether most protesters killed were members or not.

  • 1
    The cumulative death toll since the protests started stands about 111. The 55-62 count was for May 14 only. May 17, 2018 at 9:25
  • 3
    Maybe a proper answer needs to include how Hamas membership is determined. Where do you draw the line: Are there card-carrying members of Hamas vs. just supporters vs. like-minded protesters? May 17, 2018 at 15:28
  • @jeffronicus - That's part of what I'm asking with "to what extent." I don't really want to make a judgment call here on what constitutes Hamas membership, but I am interested to know (if possible) how formal the relationship of those killed with Hamas is.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 17, 2018 at 16:10

3 Answers 3


The protests began in late March and 111 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far. The 50 out of 62 figure refers to those killed on May 14th.

Tens of thousands have participated on the protests and 5-6000 have been injured. Roughly 60% have been injured by live ammunition from Israeli sniper fire, 15% by gas inhalation and 25% from other sources. As far as I know, none of the injured wore any military insignia that would distinguish them from civilians.

Now to your question. Names and photos of the killed are available online so identifying them is trivial. You can easily dig up their Facebook profiles, like the one for Ahmed A Aladani, apparently killed on May 14th.

Hamas has not clarified which of the killed that came from their ranks. That is something they otherwise often do when members of their military wing are killed, by releasing photos of the deceased wearing their military uniform.

Therefore it is not prudent to take Hamas' figures at face value. It is in their self-interest to inflate the figures to exaggregate their involvement in the popular protests. It happens to coincide with Israel's interest to frame the demonstrations as driven by Hamas. There is also the question of proportions. If 80% (50/62) of those who have died came from Hamas, then did 80%, or roughly 2500, of those injured by sniper fire also come from Hamas? Otherwise why are Hamas members succumbing to gunshot wounds at a much higher rate than other Palestinians?

I would say that with the information available currently, there is no way to answer your question.

  • 2
    It is dubious that "It is in their self-interest to inflate the figures to exaggregate their involvement in the popular protests." Hamas claims that the protests are driven by the people; it is (at least additionally) in their interest to give a lower number and underplay their role in order to gain international sympathy. Obviously the interview undermined that, and no number was given by their spokesman.
    – Elazar
    May 23, 2018 at 13:34
  • "Hamas claims that the protests are driven by the people; it is (at least additionally) in their interest to give a lower number and underplay their role in order to gain international sympathy." I doubt that. If someone supports the cause of the Palestinians, s/he will not care much if the killed protesters are from Hamas or not, it is enough that Israel kills people. And if someone supports the Israeli side, s/he will blame Hamas anyway for the killings, be it Hamas members themselves or civilians.
    – Thern
    May 25, 2018 at 12:33
  • exaggregate = exaggerate + aggregate? :P May 16, 2021 at 15:05
  • If this list is to be trusted, among the victims are five 15-year-olds, four 16-year-olds, two 17-year-olds, one 13-year-old, one 14-year-old and one 8-month-old. Were they also supposed to be members of Hamas or another militant organization? May 16, 2021 at 15:51
  • @EricDuminil (Leaving aside the 8-month old.) Given the horrific state of educational curricula in the PA this is quite plausible.
    – Zev Spitz
    Jun 10, 2021 at 21:27

A senior Hamas Leader, Salah al-Bardaweel, claims that of the 62 people killed in the conflict Monday, 50 were members of Hamas. The remaining 12 were non-affiliated.

  • Also see skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/41260/…
    – liftarn
    May 17, 2018 at 8:36
  • 8
    This just repeats the official position of Hamas, which was mentioned in the question.I mentioned a reason to be skeptical of that. Is there any third-party confirmation, etc.?
    – Obie 2.0
    May 17, 2018 at 12:18
  • 1
    Or, at least, is there a reason that any concerns about Hamas wanting to inflate their membership would be incorrect? Or, looking al-Bardaweel's statements, it seems as if he's seeking to defend Hamas from accusations of getting people killed by saying that most of those killed were Hamas's own members.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 17, 2018 at 12:26
  • 1
    Also, note this: "It was unclear if the protesters he was referring to were militants or civilian supporters of the Islamic group, which rules Gaza and opposes Israel's existence." That's part of what I'm asking.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 17, 2018 at 12:28
  • @Obie2.0 Hmmm. If you're looking for the skeptical approach, skeptics.se might be a better fit for this. May 17, 2018 at 15:15

Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, and formed a unity government with Fatah. This unity government was dismissed by the Palestinian Authority's chairman and resulted in a de facto administration of Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. This puts their claim to legitimacy in perspective.

One does not have to belong to a party to signal ones agreement with its legitimacy and it's right to govern. No doubt there are many people in the UK who disagree with the current Conservative government, some more loudly and vociferously than others; but nevertheless, they will agree that they have a legitimate right to govern; no doubt, too, that Israel, given its historical enmity will insist on repeating that Hamas is merely a militant organisation; however, the Palestinian people regard them as their legitimate representative, if not their sole legitimate representative. It's also probably worth noting that in the context of the Palestinian situation, legitimacy is going to contested

I'm not sure then, that the question is well-founded; I mean in the sense of who exactly in the demonstration are members of Hamas; the demonstration was called in large part because of recent US policy moves to bolster Israels claim to Jerusalem and thus the demonstration is essentially an indication of the strength of Palestinian nationalism - and not a party political rally. It does not surprise me that Hamas has released no figures on the party political allegiance of those killed in the recent demonstrations. It seems irrelevant to the cause at hand.


There's a report by Haaretz here reports that a senior Hamas official, Salah Albardaweel said that 'fifty of the 62 killed in Mondays bloody protest were Hamas activists'. This was from a videoed interview that was actually tweeted by the Israeli Defence Force. They also report that Islamic Jihad released a statement that three of those killed belonged to its military wing. They also branded Israels attempt to brand every protestor as a terrorist as 'pathetic'.

A more sceptical view is reported by the Electronic Intifada:

Several of those killed on Monday were buried in Hamas green flag, but not all. Fadi Abu Salmi, a double amputee, was shrouded with the flag of Islamic Jihad. Ahmad al-Adaini was buried in the flag of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

They add, that this point was also made by the veteran French-Israeli journalist Charles Enderlin:

"On the Palestinian side, Hamas is presenting itself as victorious, that is to say it had annexed the dead, who most overwhelmingly did not belong to Hamas. Moreover, we did not see many Hamas flags during these demonstrations.

So on the one hand we have Israel attempting to spin legitimate protests as a form of terrorism as they admitted in response to a petition by two Palestinian organisations to a high court:

Hamas has been leading a new tactic of terrorist activity under the cover of 'national commemoration events' and 'popular protests'.

Given this official view of the Israeli government, the massacre of protestors and demonstrators on Monday is not surprising. The affiliation of the most of the protestors to Hamas is mostly unsubstantiated and where substantiated showed that the affiliation was more or less negligible and mostly irrelevant. The interview by Albardaweel is admitted by the Electronic Intifada as a major PR coup for Israel but it's likely he was merely boasting on TV to the extent of Hamas influence and membership without realising - as he should have done being a spokesman for Hamas - how this would play out in the larger context.

This by the way is line with the analysis I presented above. I mean, that the affiliation of protestors to Hamas was irrelevant. The surprise here is that Hamas went ahead and released figures - with their experience of the media, and in particular, the Israeli media, especially on the ongoing climate of the 'war or terror', they should have known how this would have played into the hands of Israels PR machine.

  • 2
    I'm not sure this answer really addresses the question. You use the example of the Conservative government in the UK, saying that most citizens of Britain agree that they have a legitimate right to govern. But that doesn't make a Labour voter, say, a member of the Conservative Party! If I asked how many people at a protest were Conservatives, an answer saying "even Labour supports the legitimacy of Theresa May's government" would be beside the point.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 20, 2018 at 17:22
  • Then you say that "It does not surprise me that Hamas has released no figures on the party political allegiance of those killed in the recent demonstrations." But they have. That's part of the basis of the question. They claim that about 50 of those killed belong to Hamas. Clearly they don't feel it's irrelevant.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 20, 2018 at 17:24
  • Finally, the relevance of the question is clear. Israel has justified its actions by claiming that most of those killed were members of Hamas. To evaluate the truth of this argument, it's helpful to know whether those killed were Hamas supporters, not supporters, party members, military members, or what. Similarly, Hamas has claimed that it wasn't trying to sacrifice people's lives by making them approach the border, explicitly saying that most of those killed were its own members (and thus, why would it kill them?). Again, to evaluate this claim, it helps to know whether this is true.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 20, 2018 at 17:31
  • @Obie 2.0: So you are saying that if the protestors were members of Hamas and unarmed it's fine to go ahead and shoot at will? May 22, 2018 at 9:53
  • 1
    @Mozibar - If you think that's what the question's about, you might not have read it.
    – Obie 2.0
    May 22, 2018 at 13:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .