After dozens of Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military during protests on the border between Gaza and Israel on Monday and Tuesday, a top spokesman for the country’s defense forces said that the deaths caused Israel to lose the propaganda war against Hamas.
Speaking Tuesday, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus conceded that the military had failed to reduce the number of deaths during the protests and that some people had been accidentally killed by Israeli snipers. A baby girl also died from tear gas fumes during the protests, where at least 60 Palestinians died.
“We haven’t been able to get that message out of how it is from our side, what we are defending – and the ‘winning picture’ overwhelmingly, by a knockout, unfortunately, have been the graphics from the Palestinian side," Conricus said. "The amount of casualties has done us a tremendous disservice, unfortunately, and it has been very difficult to tell our story.”
Almost a month of demonstrations was staged to call for the right of Palestinians to return to their ancestral land, and they culminated during the controversial inauguration of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner attended the event, where they defended the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy from Tel Aviv.
During the speeches, which took place as Palestinians armed with rocks and slingshots were facing off against Israeli military snipers, Kushner blamed Hamas for the death of Palestinians , claiming that the organization, which controls the Gaza strip, was to blame for sending demonstrators to their death.
The comments sparked a widespread debate about whether Israel or the vociferously anti-Israel Hamas, which claimed the victims as their own martyrs, was to blame for the deaths.
The White House later backed Kushner’s comments.
"The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response. And as the Secretary of State said, Israel has the right to defend itself,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said during a press briefing on Monday .
The Israeli military also released a video of civilians claiming that Hamas had forced people to rush the border wall toward Israel. Still, several advocates argue that the majority of the protesters were peacefully demonstrating to call attention to the horrible living conditions they face. At least 13 U.S. senators signed a letter calling on Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
"The territory’s lack of power, clean water, adequate medical care and other necessities not only exacerbates the hardships faced by Gaza’s population, but redounds to the benefit of extremist groups who use this deprivation and despair to incite violence against Israel," reads the letter signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), among others.
In addition to the precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza, many Palestinians are angered by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The eastern half of the city has long been envisioned as the capital of a Palestinian state, if and when a two-state solution is negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Trump’s move was considered by some as a tacit acceptance of Israel’s de facto control over the city, and Palestinian politicians have said that the embassy move demonstrates the U.S. is not an unbiased broker qualified to help steer Middle East peace talks.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Vice News on Tuesday , Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Palestinians would never “conquer” Jerusalem.
"It's time to tell Palestinians: Abandon your fantasy of destroying Israel. Abandon the fantasy that says Israel will disappear. It will not," Netanyahu said.
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