Gaza riots
Gaza riots Reuters

Israeli security officials pushed back on claims IDF forces killed an Arab journalist during riots on the Israel-Gaza border recently, saying the slain photographer was in fact a veteran member of the Hamas terror organization.

Last Friday, Yasser Murtaja, 30, was killed during clashes on the Israel-Gaza frontier.

Arab media outlets described Murtaja, a resident of the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, as a “photo journalist”, and said he had been killed by IDF fire.

On Tuesday, however, Israeli security officials pushed back on the claim, telling Walla! News that Murtaja was in fact a long-time member of the Hamas terror group. The sources told Walla! Murtaja held the rank of Neqqib, or Captain, in Hamas.

“For years he served as an officer with the rank of Neqqib in Hamas’ security forces in the Gaza Strip,” the sources said.

“He was an activist who was involved with activities as part of [Hamas’] security apparatus on a daily basis, and provided a great deal of aid for their activities.”

In 2015, Murtaja sought to bring a drone into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, with the goal of gathering information for the terror organization. Murtaja maintained ties with Hamas over the years, and large numbers of Hamas members participated in his funeral on Saturday.

Gazans protest following death of Hamas terrorist Yasser Murtaja
Gazans protest following death of Hamas terrorist Yasser Murtaja Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90

Following Murtaja’s death, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) blamed the Hamas terror group for his death, saying he had been killed while operating a drone on behalf of the organization.

"There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip. There are no protesters there. Hamas has used both journalists and ambulances to carry out terror attacks dozens of times. Whoever flies a drone over IDF forces - we will not take any chances. We warned everyone in advance. We gave warnings in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Whoever endangers his life does so at his own risk.”

Since March 30th, rioters have clashed with IDF forces on the Israel-Gaza frontier and attempted to scale Israel’s security fence. The protests kicked off six weeks of violent demonstrations on the border, featuring firebomb attacks and the throwing of burning tires. The riots are slated to continue until May 15th, the day after Israel’s 70th Independence Day and the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Roughly 30 Gazans have been killed since the riots began, and thousands more injured. Twelve of the fatalities have been identified by Israeli forces as Hamas terrorists, not including Murtaja.