As Border Incidents Multiply, Hamas Shakes Off Responsibility for Operative Who Shot at Israeli Forces

Gunman took on Gaza border fence out of own initiative, family friend insists, while Hamas sources argue attack doesn't imply shift in policy for the organization

Marwan Nasser, 26 from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, who shot at and was killed by IDF troops trying to cross the border into Israel, on Sunday, August 4, 2019.

A Palestinian gunman who shot at and was killed by Israeli troops on Sunday trying to cross the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip was buried later that day with the traditional black band used to denote members of the group’s military organization.

Still, Hamas did not take responsibility for the incident and did not officially say that the dead man, Marwan Nasser, 26 from Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, was one of its soldiers.

Mourners carry the body of Hamas militant Marwan Nasser, 26, into the family house, during his funeral in the town of Beit Hanoun, Northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019.
Khalil Hamra,AP

In Gaza, many are wondering whether this incident and the one on Saturday morning, in which four heavily armed Palestinians entered Israel and were killed by Israel Defense Forces troops, represent a trend in which these gunmen are really operating on their own and against the wishes of Hamas.

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Some Hamas activists, however, note that the decision by a handful of the tens of thousands of Hamas gunmen does not mean there is a serious problem with discipline in the organization.

A friend of the Nasser family told Haaretz that Marwan Nasser belonged to Hamas’ elite al-Nukhba commando unit. The friend said Nasser was acting independently when he approached the Israeli border at the northern end of the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, and his actions were not part of a planned military operation by Hamas.

Nasser’s brother said Marwan led a fervently religious lifestyle and regularly participated in the protests along the border on Fridays and at night. Nasser always wanted to die as a martyr, and his brother said he assumed Nasser knew he would not return alive from his attack on Sunday.

Sources who spoke with his family claim he was going through a rough patch with relatives and decided to carry out his attack out of despair. His father was killed by IDF fire during the Second Intifada, they added. On Saturday morning, in a separate incident, four Hamas militants managed to cross the fence into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, fire at the soldiers and throw a grenade, before getting killed by the IDF.

In addition to the two incidents in the past two days, a number of other serious incidents have occurred along the border recently. Last month, IDF soldiers shot and killed an armed Hamas activist who was part of the Hamas border patrol keeping protestors away from the fence, after mistaking him for a terrorist approaching the fence. A week later, an armed terrorist crossed the border fence into Israel, and wounded three Israeli soldiers before he was killed.