'Hamas planned to abduct bodies of Israeli terror victims in West Bank'
According to Egyptian newspaper, the terrorists fled instead after a car arrived at the scene; the militants said in their testimony that the plan had been to get Israel to agree to prisoner exchange and for the IDF to carry out mass raid on West Bank.
Hamas terrorists had planned to abduct the bodies of four Israelis they killed in the West Bank earlier this month in an effort to thwart the resumption of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territory, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Monday.
Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from Fatah in a bloody 2007 coup, has adamantly opposed the peace talks.
Hamas claimed responsibility for that shooting attack, as well as a barrage of rocket and mortar fire against Israel, as part of its threat to take "effective" and violent measures to foil the peace process. It also claimed responsibility for a shooting attack that left two Israelis wounded a day later.
According to the Egyptian newspaper, the group ordered the militants who carried out the West Bank shooting to seize the bodies of the victims in order to force the Israel Defense Forces into undertaking a mass operation for their return and thus foiling the renewal of talks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met face-to-face in Washington two days after the attack, after nearly two years of stalled direct negotiations.
The Hamas terrorists said in their testimony that they had been ordered by their superiors to capture the victims' bodies so that the militant group could then demand a mass prisoner release in return.
A car that pulled up to the scene of the murder thwarted this plan, according to their testimony, and the militants fled the scene instead.
The Egyptian newspaper said that the attack had been ordered by the Hamas leadership in both Damascus and Gaza, with the hope that the IDF would respond with a raid across the West Bank that would goad the PA into canceling the talks.
The attack in question occurred on August 31 near the West Bank city of Hebron, as Netanyahu was already en route to the United States. Security forces located the terrorists' car two days after the shooting.
In response to the attack, the Palestinian Authority conducted its own mass raid and arrest hundreds of Hamas militants in the Ramallah area.
Meanwhile, Hamas announced Monday that it had previously told the United States it would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, according to Israel Radio.
Citing the organization's semi-annual report, Israel Radio said that Hamas had also asked the U.S. administration to open dialogue. The militant group said in its report that it had passed that message along via American academics and politicians visiting the Gaza Strip.
Hamas also said that it had asked Washington to lift the veto it had imposed on reconciliation efforts between the militant group and its rival, Abbas' Fatah faction.