Hamas says most of protesters killed by Israel in Gaza were members

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Israel carried out airstrikes on Hamas sites in Gaza early Thursday, hours after the militant organization said most of the protesters killed by Israeli fire this week were its members.

Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, told Palestinian news outlet Baladna TV that 50 out of the 60 who died on Monday were members of his organization, while the rest were civilians. Hamas won elections in 2006 and has run Gaza since the end of a violent power struggle the following year.

Israel has long argued that Hamas has used the protests, which began on March 30, as cover to for terrorist attacks or attempts to infiltrate its border.

Human rights groups say an affiliation with a militant group is irrelevant if they were unarmed and did not pose an immediate threat to the lives of soldiers when they were shot.

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