Hamas Claims Deadly Settlement Attack, but Israel Doubts Group Is Actually Behind It

The Israeli investigation of the attack that killed a security guard in Ariel did not reveal any connection to Hamas, and officials believe the organization is simply trying to claim what they see as a successful operation

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Police at the scene of the attack in the settlement of Ariel on Friday.
Police at the scene of the attack in the settlement of Ariel on Friday.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility Monday for a deadly shooting that left an Israeli security guard dead at the entrance of the settlement of Ariel in the West Bank last week.

It was the first time Hamas has claimed such an attack targeting Israelis in the occupied West Bank since 2018, but Israeli defense officials say their investigation of the attack hasn't revealed any actual links to the group.

“This is an episode in a series of responses by Al-Qassam Brigades to the aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas's armed wing said in a short statement.

The claim of responsibility came a day after the Israeli army spokesperson told Kan public radio that two Palestinian suspects apprehended by the military, Yusuf Assi and Yahya Mar'i, did not belong to any militant group.

Assi is not believed to be tied to any political group. Mar'i does have some links to Hamas, but according to Israeli officials isn't an actual member of the group.

Assi also does not have a criminal record, whereas Mar'i served a seven-month sentence in Israeli prison for illegal possession of a weapon, where he was held in the Hamas wing of Meggido Prison.

Officials say taking responsibility for the attack might be an attempt by Hamas to claim for itself what it sees as a successful operation.

Hamas was not the only organization claiming responsibility for the attack. On Saturday, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah's militant wing, also took responsibility for the attack, calling it "a heroic action in Ariel which caused the death of a Zionist officer."

On Sunday, Hamas's leader Yehiyeh Sinwar in the Gaza Strip called for more attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, saying the “real battle arena is there.” In a speech, Sinwar saluted the attackers who killed the guard.

Friday's attack was the latest in a long string of incidents in recent weeks. Tensions have mounted after deadly attacks on Israelis by Palestinian assailants, an Israeli military crackdown in the West Bank, and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

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