Palestinians dismiss IS claim of Israel policewoman killing

Palestinians dismiss IS claim of Israel policewoman killing
Palestinian authorities refuted an Islamic State statement claiming responsibility for an attack that left an Israeli policewoman dead in Jerusalem, officials said on Saturday.
3 min read
18 June, 2017
An Israeli policewoman was killed in the attack [Getty]

Palestinian factions dismissed a claim by the Islamic State group that it was behind the fatal stabbing of an Israeli policewoman in Jerusalem, instead saying that the assailants came from their ranks, officials confirmed on Saturday.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, dismissed the claim, confirming the attackers had come from among its own ranks and those of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the IS claim was an attempt to "muddy the waters", adding that the attack was carried out by "two Palestinians from the PFLP and a third from Hamas".

The killing was "a natural response to the crimes of the occupier," he said.

On Friday, three Palestinians attacked officers just outside the walled Old City in annexed east Jerusalem before being shot dead by security forces, Israeli police said.

Shortly after the attack, an online IS statement said militant fighters had targeted a "gathering of Jews", warning that "this attack will not be the last".

The assault took place as tens of thousands of Palestinians held night prayers at the nearby al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site, on the third Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

But the Israeli security services also raised doubts about the veracity of the IS claim - its first for an attack in Jerusalem or inside Israel - which came as the militants face defeat in their Iraq and Syria bastions.

A spokesman for Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency told AFP it was "impossible to corroborate (the IS claim) at this point".

"A preliminary army intelligence evaluation found no evidence of them belonging to any group," an army spokeswoman said.

Policewoman Hadas Malka, a 23-year-old staff sergeant major, was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died of her wounds. 

Hamas and the PFLP identified the three assailants as Bara Ata, 18, Osama Ata, 19, and Adel Ankush, 18, all from the village of Deir Abu Mashal near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Shin Bet said they had been implicated in previous "popular terror activity".

The PFLP said Bara and Osama Ata had recently been released from several months in Israeli prison.

A family member of one of the three flatly rejected any connection to IS, angrily decribing the group's claim was a "lie" that didn't deserve mention.

Israel responded to the attack by rescinding more than 250,000 Ramadan permits for Palestinians to enter Jerusalem.

Late Friday, Israeli military forces imposed a closure on the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashal, where the attackers hailed from, in preparation for a punitive demolition of their homes, villagers told Ma’an News Agency.

Israel has for decades employed a policy of demolishing the homes of relatives of Palestinians who have carried out attacks on Israelis.

Military checkpoints were set up in the village with residents prevented from entering or leaving, locals told Ma’an News Agency, while 22 unregistered vehicles were confiscated by Israeli forces.

So far in 2017, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and settlers.

Unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 272 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally.