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Palestinians dismiss Daesh claim of Israel female officer killing

By AFP - Jun 18,2017 - Last updated at Jun 18,2017

Palestinians walk past an Israeli forces member as they make their way through the Israeli Qalandia checkpoint, in the occupied West Bank between Ramallah and Jerusalem, to attend Friday prayer of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, on Friday (AFP photo)

OCCUPIED JERSUAELM — Palestinian factions on Saturday dismissed a claim by the Daesh terror group that it was behind the fatal stabbing of an Israeli female officer in Jerusalem, saying the assailants came from their ranks. 

The Israeli forces also raised doubts about the veracity of the Daesh claim — its first for an attack in occupied Jerusalem or inside Israel — which came with the extremists facing defeat in their Iraq and Syria bastions.

Three Palestinians attacked officers just outside the walled Old City in annexed East Jerusalem late on Friday before being shot dead by Israeli forces, the forces said.

In an online statement, Daesh said extremist fighters had targeted a “gathering of Jews”, warning that “this attack will not be the last”.

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

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.

According to officer, two assailants opened fire on a group of officers who returned fire, and a third stabbed the border female officer a short distance away before being shot.

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

 

‘Muddy the waters’

 

In its statement, Daesh said the attack was “revenge for the religion of Allah and the sanctities of the violated Muslims”.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Daesh 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.

A spokesman for Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency told AFP it was “impossible to corroborate [the Daesh claim] at this point”.

The Israeli forces said the assailants appeared to have acted independently, like many of the attackers in a wave of unrest that has rocked Israel and the occupied territories since October 2015.

“A preliminary army intelligence evaluation found no evidence of them belonging to any group, rather they appear to have been a typical popular terror squad,” an army spokeswoman said.

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 Daesh, angrily telling AFP the terrorist group’s claim was a “lie” that didn’t deserve mention.

The forces sealed off the assailants’ home village while troops went house to house, arresting two youths before leaving after a number of hours.

 

UN envoy ‘appalled’ 

 

Israel had eased restrictions on the entry of Palestinians to Jerusalem and Israel from the West Bank for Ramadan.

Following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to cancel permission for Palestinians to visit family members in Jerusalem and Israel, officer said.

Major General Yoav Mordechai — head of COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories — said the 250,000 family visit permits were cancelled in response to “encouragement to terrorism” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh movement.

In a Facebook post in Arabic, Mordechai charged that Fateh had congratulated the attackers.

A statement by Fateh carried on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa condemned the “killing” of the three Palestinians, without mentioning the circumstances leading up to their deaths.

UN Middle East peace process coordinator Nickolay Mladenov said that “terrorist acts” like Friday’s “must be clearly condemned by all”.

He also spoke out against the way both Hamas and PFLP had described the incident.

“I am appalled that once again some find it appropriate to justify such attacks as ‘heroic’,” Mladenov said in a statement.

The 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.

Israeli forces say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

 

The extremist group has a major presence across Israel’s southern border in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from where it has claimed several rocket attacks into Israel.

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