PFLP, Hamas claim responsibility over deadly Jerusalem attack

The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Hamas movement have both claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, as the PFLP called the slain Palestinian attackers “heroes” of the Palestinian people, according to a statement released by the group on Saturday.

All three of the Palestinians, who were armed with knives and an automatic weapon, were shot dead by Israeli police on the scene near Damascus Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem. A 23-year-old Israeli police officer was killed in the attack, while a number of other bystanders were injured.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the slain attackers as Adel Hasan Ahmad Ankoush, 18, Baraa Ibrahim Salih Taha, 18, and Osama Ahmad Dahdouh, 19.

While Israeli media reported that the so-called Islamic State had taken credit for the attack, Hamas denied the claims, and said that crediting the group for the attack was an attempt at confusing the situation. Hamas’ statement confirmed that one of the attackers was a member of its movement, while the other two were members of the PFLP.

The Islamic State has attempted to take credit for Palestinian attacks in the past, most notably through mentions of such attacks in the group’s Dabiq propaganda online magazine. However, Palestinian leaders have rejected any correlations between what they consider a part of Palestine’s legitimate resistance against Israeli colonization and Islamic State-inspired “terrorism.”

Hamas’ spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said in the statement that the attack on Friday was part of the popular Palestinian resistance against the now half-century Israeli occupation and a “natural reaction to the occupation’s crimes.”

Meanwhile, the PFLP lauded the attackers as “heroes” in a statement released by the group, and said that Baraa Salih Taha and Osama Ahmad Dahdouh were members of the group.

According to the PFLP, the three had previously taken part in throwing Molotov cocktails and stones to thwart “the attacks of the occupation forces and the settlers,” along Israeli bypass roads leading to the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish, which is adjacent to their hometown Deir Abu Mashal in the central occupied west Bank district of Ramallah.

As a result, Baraa spent several months in Israeli custody in 2015, while Osama was imprisoned in 2014 for one year, the PFLP said.

The group called the attack a “heroic operation” and said that it came at a “critical time to defend Palestinian resistance.”

The attackers were “heroes of the Palestinian people who acted to defend the rights of the Palestinian people with unrivaled courage, penetrating Zionist control over Jerusalem to direct the fire of their anger at the occupation’s armed forces and soldiers,” the group said, and added that “the resistance is continued, rooted in the homeland and in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Palestine.”

The PFLP added that the attack also sent a “strong, direct message” to the “defeated leaders of the Palestinian Authority, its policies and approach,” adding that the attack has made clear that the resistance is continuing and is the only path to defeat the occupier.”

Meanwhile, representatives of the United Nations and the European Union both denounced the attack on Saturday.

United Nations envoy to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement that “Such terrorist acts must be clearly condemned by all. I am appalled that once again some find it appropriate to justify such attacks as ‘heroic.’ They are unacceptable and seek to drag everyone into a new cycle of violence.”

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said on Twitter: “I condemn yesterday’s terror attacks in Jerusalem in which Hadas Malka was killed. My condolences to her family and colleague.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon also reportedly blamed the Palestinian Authority for encouraging attacks through the controversial “martyrs” compensation program that provides financial allowances to the families of Palestinians imprisoned, injured, or killed by Israel forces.

“The Palestinian leadership continues to pledge their support for peace, while making monthly payments to terrorists and educating their children to hate. The international community must demand that the Palestinians put an end to these intolerable acts of violence,” he said.

According to Ma’an documentation, 33 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since the start of 2017, while eight Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same time period.

While Israeli leaders often point to Palestinian “incitement” for the cause of such attacks, and often attempt to connect the attacks to the so-called “war on terror,” Palestinians have instead cited the daily frustrations and routine Israeli military violence imposed by Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory as main drivers for such attacks.

Following the Friday’s attack, Israeli forces put the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashal under a complete lockdown and raided the homes of families of the slain Palestinians, warning the families that their homes would soon be demolished — an Israeli policy used against family members of Palestinian attacks, which rights groups have deemed a form of “collective punishment.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rescinded all permits that were issued to Palestinians to enter Jerusalem and Israel for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Numerous other Palestinians were injured and detained by Israeli forces following the attack, as Israeli forces reportedly “assaulted” Palestinians and shot live ammunition “haphazardly” in the area, according to witnesses.