Special GroundBrief: United Nations side-event speech on Gaza militants at the March of Return

On Monday morning, I presented evidence of militant activity at the March of Return at a UNWatch side-panel at the United Nations. The United Nations was debating several reports and resolutions against the state of Israel. One of those reports was the United Nations Committee of Inquiry on the March of Return.

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I’ve been following and researching militants groups in Gaza since the start of the 2014 Gaza war. This began as a hobby for me which soon turned into a full time job. I use open-source material to gather data points from the Gaza Strip. Over time, I observed how militant factions operated in Gaza and learned about their presence on social media. When the March of Return started, I noticed gaps between what was happening on the ground at the border and what was highlighted in the press.

Specifically, Palestinian border units that were active in infiltrating through the security fence, also launched incendiary kites and explosive-laden balloons into Israel. This is when I started to publish my research and analysis online about the militants.

Another part of my work is a newsletter called GroundBrief. My newsletter covers the facts on the ground in the Middle East in the format of pictures, gifs and analysis.

A highlight of the GroundBrief newsletter was an Associated Press (AP) report in December of 2018 titled; “In Gaza protests, IDF troops aim for the legs.” The report highlighted several Palestinians who were shot by IDF soldiers during the March of Return. I cross-referenced the names of Palestinians who were shot and uncovered information missing from the AP report.

In one case, a Palestinian named Mohammed al-Essawei, was an active member of a Palestinian border unit and had suspected ties to militant groups in Gaza.

In a video near the security fence, a border unit member ignites an explosive and throws it towards the security fence. At the end, we see Mohammed show his face to the camera.

I gathered evidence of units formed by Palestinian militants who were active at the border. These units are primarily responsible for infiltrations through the security fence, launching of explosive-laden balloons towards Israel and the use of explosives at the border.

Regarding the UN Committee of Inquiry report, I used a similar method as with the AP report. Using open-source material, I cross-referenced names of Palestinians mentioned in the report to see if there were any errors or inconsistencies.

Subject 1: Mahmoud Abu Taima

Report notes Taima was killed approximately 150 meters from the fence but the report doesn’t mention he was a fighter of Hamas’ military wing, al-Qassam Brigades.

Subject 2: Abed Hawajri

Report notes Hawajri was shot in the abdomen a 150 meters from the fence. What they didn’t mention was Hawajris affiliation with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Also, he was a field a commander in its military wing and he was one of the founders of the DFLP in the Nusierat refugee camp in Gaza.

Subject 3: Jihad Abu Jamous

The COI stated Jamous was shot in the head approximately 300 meters from the security fence. Like previous militants, there was no mention of Jamous’ position in the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He was also a field commander of the al-Amoudi Brigade, a branch of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Subject 4: Ahmed Sha’ar

A section of the COI report covered children killed by IDF gunfire. Ahmed Sha’ar was noted as a child killed by the IDF on May 14th. A fact the COI missed was his role as a fighter in Saraya al-Quds, the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Subject 5: Saeed al-Kheir

The COI noted al-Kheir as a child killed at the security fence. As I did with previous militants, I cross-referenced his name and found his affiliation with al-Qassam Brigades. He also received military training at an al-Qassam youth camp in Gaza.

Another find was a video of a martyrs ceremony featuring al-Kheir. The person speaking at the podium is senior Hamas official Fathi Hamad.

The COI report stated it did not find evidence of armed Palestinians at the March of Return. I researched this and uncovered this to be false.

There are more militants killed at the Gaza border that I have not mentioned in my findings.

There are also militants I haven't mentioned who are members of Palestinian border units who are currently active at the security fence.

Militants are involved in demonstrations, riots, infiltrations and other acts of violence at the security fence. At least five militants killed at the March of Return are mentioned in the COI report without reference to their militant backgrounds. Some children in COI report were members of militant groups. Contrary to COI report, Palestinians present during March of Return demonstrations/riots were armed.

I hope my presentation has shed light on militant activity at the March of Return and regarding information missing from the COI report.