Oren Ziv reports in +972:
On May 14, 2018, the deadliest day of the Great March of Return protests along the Gaza-Israel fence, the Israeli military shot dead 60 Palestinians and injured 2,771 more — half of them with live fire. The massacre unfolded at the same time as a ceremony marking the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The following day, the IDF Spokesperson released a statement announcing that Israeli forces had “ambushed” a “Hamas terrorist cell” southeast of Jabaliya in the strip. The troops, who apparently had intelligence on the location of the cell, shot dead “eight Hamas terrorists” following an exchange of gunfire.
The announcement was widely picked up by Israeli news outlets, whose reporting on the so-called “battle” was based on the IDF statement — which included photos, video, and an account of how the situation unfolded.
For Hillel Bardin, an 84-year-old left-wing activist, something about the IDF’s account of the battle didn’t feel right. He began looking into what transpired that day on his own , and for the past 18 months has been trying to get the army to answer a very simple question: did this shoot-out take place or not? Two years after the alleged events, Bardin has still not been able to get a direct answer to his query, despite repeated requests to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Department (MPCID), the military prosecutor, the IDF Spokesperson, the Justice Ministry, and the State Comptroller.
Like many, Bardin closely followed the Gaza border protests, which began in March 2018. The media reports on the May 14 battle left him dismayed. “I was very disappointed when I heard that [Hamas] opened fire,” he says from his home in Tel Aviv. “I thought that [the demonstrators] were trying to hold a nonviolent protest, and going by what the IDF Spokesperson said, how is it nonviolent when they’re shooting at soldiers?”
But Bardin quickly became suspicious of the IDF’s account. One detail in particular stuck out: a lack of information on whether Israel was holding on to the bodies of the dead Palestinians as it often does.