As the dust settles from the deadly March of Return demonstrations that rocked the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Monday and Tuesday, a public relations battle is heating up as both sides attempt to promote competing narratives of the events. Israeli political and military establishments contend that the seven-weeks-long protests have been directed by the Hamas terrorist organization with a view to purposely fomenting violence and breaching the security fence, while Gaza’s rulers claim the marches are a form of “peaceful resistance” and that the IDF’s heavy-handedness is responsible for their descent into anarchy. On Wednesday, however, Salah Bardaweil, a member of Hamas’ Politburo, revealed in a live interview that fifty of the sixty-one Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this week were card-carrying members of his group. Meanwhile, the diplomatic fall-out continues over the bloodiest day of conflict in Gaza since the 2014 battle between Israel and Hamas. The Palestinian Authority withdrew its envoy from Washington over the White House’s publicly stated support for Jerusalem’s right to defend itself and efforts to thwart any condemnations of the IDF’s tactics in the United Nations Security Council. Similarly, Turkey and Israel expelled each other’s ambassadors, with the Israeli envoy having been filmed while being harassed by Turkish security personnel at the Istanbul airport on his return home; this, after a war-of-words comprising mutual accusations of promoting terrorism between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Over the past two days, the protests in Gaza have waned amid reports that Egyptian officials applied pressure on Hamas leader Ismail Haniyyeh to lower the level of violence. Israel also has conducted increasingly frequent air strikes on targets in the Palestinian enclave in a bid to deter Hamas. The government is likewise rumored to have conveyed a message to senior Hamas officials that they could be targeted for assassination if the March of Return continues.
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