When recent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down, some Palestinian officials, including chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, cited a spike in Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli security forces as a factor.
Israelis, Erekat said, "killed 66 Palestinians in cold blood" since negotiations started last summer. A new report, however, investigates the backgrounds of those killed, finding that a majority were members of radical terrorist organizations.
B'Tselem, an Israeli monitoring group, lists 43 Palestinians who were killed by the IDF from August 2013 through the end of March. In his report, Lt. Col (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs finds an overwhelming majority of those killed were combatants from radical Islamist terrorist organizations.
Those terrorist groups include Hamas and its al-Qassam Brigades military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades (Palestinian Islamic Jihad's military wing), al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades (Fatah's military wing), the al-Qaida associated Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
It is important to note that the nine people who were not affiliated with an organization were killed in response to standard military procedures. Three were killed as they approached a military outpost at the Gaza border and three others were killed participating in violent demonstrations. After firing at an IDF force, a Palestinian man was killed and another instance included a woman shot by return IDF fire following an initial escalation of violence emanating from Gaza.
The information won't be persuasive to Erekat and others in the Palestinian Authority. In an April interview, Erekat insisted Hamas is "a political organization" and not a terrorist group. That view seems to extend to the entire Palestinian Authority, which recently accepted a unity agreement with Hamas.
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh made it clear on Saturday that the deal changes nothing when it comes to the group's devotion to violence over peace.
"We emphasize now that we will not retreat from [our] plan to liberate our lands and ensure the right of return and the release of [terrorist] prisoners," he said.
That is the context to bear in mind when Palestinian officials decry Israeli military action. If Palestinians work with terrorist groups, that's righteous political activity. If Israelis kill someone who is waging an attack or facilitating violence, that's cold-blooded.
To read Halevi's report, click here.