Report: Hamas-linked Group Claims Responsibility for West Bank Terror Attack

Group vows the attack, which claimed the life of one Israeli, 'won't be the last,' and claims the attack was conducted in honor of terrorists behind kidnap-murder of three Israeli teens.

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FILE PHOTO: Police inspect a car belonging to Israeli victims of a gun attack by a Palestinian man near the Dolev settlement. June 19, 2015.
FILE PHOTO: Police inspect a car belonging to Israeli victims of a gun attack by a Palestinian man near the Dolev settlement. June 19, 2015.Credit: AFP

A group with ties to Hamas' military wing took responsibility Friday for a shooting attack in the West Bank that left Danny Gonen, a 25-year-old Israeli, dead and wounded another Israeli in his 20s. The attack took place Friday evening near the settlement of Dolev in the Ramallah region.

According to a report by the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, a Hamas-affiliated news site published a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, and said it was conducted in honor of the Hamas operatives involved in the kidnap-murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last year.

“One of the fighters ambushed a settler vehicle and shot at them from point-blank range after having observed the area continuously,” said the statement by the group, identified as the ' Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh Brigade.' According to the report, the group has ties to Hamas' military wing, and said the attack “was part of an ongoing series of operations which started months ago in retaliation to occupation crimes."

“Resistance will continue despite the war waged against it, and will choose the appropriate time and place to strike," Ma'an quoted the military wing's statement as saying, vowing that "this operation isn’t the first and won’t be the last."

Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh were implicated as the terror cell that kidnapped and murdered three Jewish teenagers in Gush Etzion last June. Qawasmeh and Abu Aisheh were killed in a gun fight with IDF forces after a massive manhunt was launched in wake of the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16.

Friday's terror attack took place near the Ein Buvin spring, close to the settlement of Dolev in the Ramallah area. Visits to the spring by Israelis need to be coordinated with the Israeli army, which provides security if the visit is approved, according to an Israel Defense Forces officer in the Judea and Samaria Division who briefed reporters. He said that the two men did not coordinate the visit.

According to the report in Ma'an, the terrorist behind the attack patrolled the area for some time before attacking, and the report described how one of the attackers waited for the arrival of Israelis. After Gonen and his friend arrived at the scene, the attackers opened fire from close range, the report claimed.

Both of the victims, two male residents of central Israel in their twenties who were travelling in the area, were in a motor vehicle at the time of the shooting. The deceased was initially critically wounded, while the second victim, who was shot in the leg, was lightly wounded.

Danny Gonen. Screenshot from Facebook.

Photo by Yoav Yogev

According to the initial investigation, the two phoned a friend in Dolev after arriving at the spring to say that they intended to leave the place because of the number of Palestinians there. While returning to the Haparsa Junction, they were stopped by a Palestinian who asked them if there was water in the spring. During the conversation, the man took a pistol out of a bag and shot the two Israelis.

Settlers and Palestinians swimming together

On the left: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh. On the right: kidnapped teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal YifrahCredit: Reuters

The spring that was Danon and a friend’s destination is in the northern part of lands belonging to the village of Deir Ibzi’a, west of Ramallah. The inhabitants raise fruit trees in the nearby wadi, and wheat and olives on the hillsides.

The area, which the settlers call Dolevim Reserve, is a recommended touring route on the touring website “Nelech,” which states that the visit must be coordinated with the local civilian security official. The website of the Benyamin Regional Council also says coordination with the authorities is required to hike this route. The website also says that settlement youth have been active in creating a hiking trail in the area.

In recent years West Bank settlers have taken over dozens of springs and wadis of Palestinian villages and they have blocked access by Palestinians to at least 30 springs. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has listed Ein Buvin as one of 26 springs at risk of takeover by settlers, and 30 other springs they have already taken over and prevent Palestinian access and use.

Residents of Ein Buvin told Haaretz this morning that in general the settlers do not stop them from going to the spring and sometimes Palestinians and settlers swim together in its pool. However, settlers do prevent their access to olive groves in the northern part of the wadi.

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