Is­lamic State claims on Is­rael at­tack re­jected

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Joshua Mit­nick Mit­nick is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

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.

Ah­mad Gharabli AFP/Getty Images

IS­RAELI po­lice frisk a man in Jerusalem’s Old City the day after the at­tack that left a po­lice­woman dead.

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