Israel defence minster accuses slain Palestinian journalist of being 'a terrorist'
Israel's defence minister accused a Palestinian journalist shot dead at a protest on the Gaza border last weekend of being a "terrorist" and former member of Hamas.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman accusations will likely inflame tensions among Palestinians who have seen 30 unarmed protesters shot dead in two weeks of demonstrations.
"[Murtaja had] a prior association with the military arm of Hamas... [with a] rank similar to captain," Lieberman added.
He went on to claim that Murtaja had been paid by Hamas since 2011 to shoot footage of Israeli troops on the Gaza border using a drone.
Lieberman did not present any evidence to back his allegations.
Murtaja died from his wounds hours after being shot in the abdomen whilst filming Friday's protesters on the Gaza border who were demanding the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in current day Israel.
Murtaja was wearing a flak jacket clearly marked 'PRESS' when he was shot, drawing criticism at Israel's ruthless tactics against the unarmed protesters. Five other journalists were shot by Israel that day.
Israeli troops were also allegedly filmed on the border celebrating the shooting of the protesters.
Friends and colleagues of Murtaja have dismissed Lieberman's claims as "ridiculous" and said he was well-known in Gaza's media scene as a brilliant young journalist.
He had worked with Al Jazeera and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei before his untimely death.
Rushdi al-Serraj, director at Ain Media which he founded with Murtaja, said Lieberman's statements were "ridiculous comments that are not worth responding to".
"Yasser has been working for years in the press and making films for the United Nations, China and others," he told AFP.
"They killed a journalist and should confess it is a crime."
The US State Department has confirmed that Ain Media had recently been granted USAID funding.
Hamas also said it had proof Murtaja was wearing a 'Press' vest when he was shot.
Israel has killed 31 Palestinians since 30 March protests began, while no Israelis have been hurt.
The EU, UN and NGOs have called for an investigation into the killings.
Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008.
Agencies contributed to this story.