Islamic State claims on Israel attack rejected
TEL AVIV — Palestinian militants launched an assault with guns and knives near Jerusalem’s Old City, killing a border policewoman and wounding three other people in the first attack within Israel or the West Bank claimed by the militant group Islamic State.
Hours after the Friday attack, the group announced that “soldiers of the caliphate” had launched the “blessed operation … on a gathering of Jews,” and vowed additional attacks.
Almost immediately, Hamas rejected the Islamic State claim and said one of the attackers belonged to Hamas, and two others to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, both domestic Palestinian groups.
“The three hero martyrs who executed the Jerusalem operation have no connection to Daesh [Islamic State], they are affiliated with the PFLP and Hamas,” a Hamas official, Izzat Rishq, wrote on Twitter.
The Israeli military also challenged Islamic State’s claim. On Saturday, an Israeli officer said the army believes the attackers were a “local” organization without links to Islamic State or Hamas.
Hearing reports on a police radio of gunfire at an East Jerusalem holy site several blocks from the Old City, a group of Israeli border police near the Old City’s Damascus Gate was preparing to respond when an assailant began stabbing Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, repeatedly, authorities said. The officer was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Three other people were shot and injured at the scene of the gunfire, several blocks away.
Israeli police said they killed three Palestinians involved in the attack. The attackers were identified by Israeli security services as residents of the West Bank, at least two of them teenagers from a village near the city of Ramallah.
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, denounced the attack. “Such terrorist attacks must be clearly condemned by all,” he said in a statement.
Israeli security services have occasionally announced arrests of small cells said to be affiliated with Islamic State, and the army has tracked the group’s forces on the Syrian and Egyptian border, but the organization has thus far not claimed a deadly attack against Israelis from the West Bank.
This year, Islamic State claimed that it had launched a rocket attack from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into Israel. In 2016, a truck-ramming attack that killed four soldiers at a Jerusalem tourist site could have had links to the group, Israeli authorities said, but Islamic State did not claim responsibility.
Israeli intelligence officers have said they believe that the group has been focusing its main efforts on attacking Arab states in the region, but cautioned that a successful attack on Israelis would add to the organization’s prestige in the Arab world.
Kobi Michael, a former official at Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, said he was dubious of the Islamic State claim. He said it was unlikely that the group had a developed a sufficiently extensive underground in the West Bank — in light of counterterrorism efforts by Israel and the Palestinian Authority security forces — to carry out such an attack.
In response to the attack, Israeli security services said they were canceling entry permits for West Bank Palestinians to visit relatives inside Israel during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
ISRAELI police frisk a man in Jerusalem’s Old City the day after the attack that left a policewoman dead.