…As New Zealand plans to spend billions on hospitals, education***
A senior member of Gaza’s rulers Hamas said on Wednesday that most of the 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire during border protests and clashes this week were members of the Islamist group.
Salah Bardawil did not give further details about whether they were members of the group’s armed or political wing, or what they were doing at the time they were killed.
“The latest round (Monday and Tuesday), 62 people were killed,” he told a Palestinian television show.
“Fifty of the martyrs were Hamas and 12 from the people. How can Hamas reap the fruits if it pays such an expensive price?” Questioned about the figures by the presenter, Bardawil said they were “official numbers”.
Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum did not confirm all 50 were members of the Islamist movement.
He told AFP Hamas paid for the funerals for all 50 “whether they are members or supporters of Hamas, or unrelated to the factions.”
Bassem Naim, another senior Hamas official, declined to confirm or deny the number but said it was a “large movement and has great popular support”.
It was “natural to see members or supporters of Hamas in large numbers” in such a protest, he said, adding that when they were killed they were “participating peacefully” in demonstrations.
Bardawil’s statement was highlighted by the Israeli army, which has long argued that Hamas is seeking to use weeks of border protests as cover to carry out attacks.
Israel says its actions on the border are necessary to stop mass infiltrations from the Gaza Strip.
“Take his word for it. This was no peaceful protest,” Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter.
Palestinians, including Hamas officials, say protesters are being shot while posing no threat to soldiers and there have been international calls for an independent probe into the deaths.
In the meantime, New Zealand’s government plans to spend billions of dollars rebuilding rotting hospitals and improving other infrastructure as the economy continues to grow at a healthy clip.
The liberal government on Thursday announced its first budget plan since winning national elections last year. It has ditched tax cuts planned by the previous conservative government and put more money into health, education, public housing and foreign aid.
The government predicts it will continue to run a small operating surplus. But the big increase in infrastructure spending isn’t fully included in those figures and means the nation will actually add to its debt for at least a few more years.
Still, New Zealand’s debt remains modest compared to that of many developed countries, with net debt equal to about 22 percent of GDP.
Zee with additional report from Abc