Israel's Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, has claimed that Palestinian demonstrators killed by Israeli soldiers since 30 March in the occupied Gaza Strip were "not innocent civilians".
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's "Today" show yesterday, Regev was challenged about Israeli snipers' use of live fire against unarmed protesters in Gaza.
"The great majority of those shot were at a distance from the fence," the presenter put it to him, quoting from recent remarks made by an attorney for Israeli legal rights centre Adalah. "There is systematic use of lethal fire with no justification."
The Israeli envoy and former spokesperson for the prime minister responded: "If I'm not mistaken, some 80 per cent of those people fatally shot in these violent confrontations were in fact signed up members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They were activists, they were not innocent civilians."
Regev was almost certainly referring to a report published last month by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, claiming that 80 per cent of Palestinian fatalities during Great March of Return protests were "terrorist operatives or individuals affiliated with them".
The centre included in its list 13-year-old Palestinian child Hussein Madi, and anyone affiliated with Palestinian political parties like Fatah or Hamas. The centre acknowledged that its list of "terrorists" includes Palestinians with a mere "link" based on "circumstantial evidence".
Regev's inference that slain demonstrators were "not innocent civilians" flies in the face of international humanitarian law which draws a clear distinction between civilians and combatants. Unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, regardless of party political affiliation, are civilians.
The Meir Amit Centre was described recently by the Jerusalem Post as enjoying "ongoing connections to current military intelligence and is filled with top former Israeli intelligence officials". The centre has previously acknowledged that "it receives some Israeli government financing".