A senior Hamas official boasted during a conference in Istanbul on Wednesday that the group's military wing was behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.
A video captured during the conference shows Salah Arouri, who is based in Turkey and is considered a primary figure within Hamas, saying that the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades were responsible for the abduction of the three youths, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.
The kidnapping sparked an extensive Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank.
"It has been said that it is an Israeli conspiracy, and I say it isn't," Arouri states.
"The al-Qassam's mujahedeen were the ones to carry out [the abduction] in show of support for the prisoners' hunger strike," he adds, referring to Palestinian inmates held in Israel.
The remarks were made during an event organized by the World Association of Muslim Scholars.
So far Hamas has refrained from taking responsibility for the abduction and murder, even though it had expressed support for the attack.
Arouri's name came up as a possible key player in the abduction shortly after it had transpired. Nevertheless, Hamas may have chosen to claim responsibility at this point to leverage its position.
Arouri served a 16-year sentence in Israeli prison and was consequently expelled from Israel. It was revealed on Monday that Aruri had recruited the head of a Hamas terror network in the West Bank. Ninety-three members of the network have been arrested since May.
Earlier this week, the Israel Defense Forces demolished the homes of two suspects in the three teens' kidnapping and murder, Hussam Kawasama and Amer Abu Aisha, while sealing off the entrance to the cellar where a third suspect, Marwan Kawasama, resided.
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