Palestinian groups deny IS claim of fatal stabbing of Israeli policewoman
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the fatal stabbing of an Israeli policewoman but Palestinian groups said those involved in the attack belonged to local movements.
An Israeli policewoman was stabbed and killed in an attack outside Jerusalem’s Old City and security forces shot dead three suspected Palestinian assailants, police said.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the fatal stabbing in a statement. If true, it would mark the first direct IS action against Israel and the group warned on its affiliate news agency it “will not be the last”.
“Let the Jews expect the demise of their entity at the hands of the Caliphate soldiers,” it said, calling the attack “revenge for God’s religion and for the violated sanctities of Muslims”.
However, Hamas and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem after the fatal stabbing of the Israeli policewoman belonged to local Islamist and leftist movements, rejecting the claim by the IS.
Israeli police said no connection had been found between the three Palestinians who carried out the fatal attack and any organisation.
“It was a local cell. At this stage no indication has been found it was directed by terrorist organisations nor has any connection to any organisation been found,” police spokeswoman Luba Simri said.
The attack took place on Friday as Muslims marked the end of the third Friday of the fasting month of Ramzan, during which tens of thousands of Palestinians from east Jerusalem and the West Bank attended prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site.
“Female border policewoman injured critically in attack at Damascus gate,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote in a statement. “3 Arab terrorists shot by police units that responded at the scene.” Police said the three were killed.
The policewoman was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died of her wounds. She was identified as Hadas Malka, 23, a staff sergeant major.
According to police, two perpetrators opened fire at a group of police officers who returned fire, and a third stabbed the border policewoman a short distance away before being shot.
Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy identified the three attackers as Palestinians from the West Bank.
The Shin Bet internal security agency identified the three perpetrators as Braa Salah and Asama Atta, both born in 1998, and Adel Ankush, born the following year. All three were from Deir Abu Mashal, a village near Ramallah, and had been arrested for or involved in “popular terror activity”, a Shin Bet statement read.
Israel had eased restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians from the West Bank for Ramzan, including permitting daily family visits during Sundays through Thursdays.
“During Ramadan there are large numbers of (Palestinian) youths who enter without permits, they take advantage of Ramadan to be in Jerusalem,” Halevy told media at the scene of the attack.
Following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a phone consultation with the chief of police and public security minister, and decided to cancel the family visits, a police statement read.
Netanyahu, however, did not revoke the permission given to Palestinian men aged over 40 from the West Bank to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers, police said.
The area around Damascus Gate was sealed off in the hours after the attack, with a few youths throwing fireworks at security forces. A road leading to Damascus Gate full of stalls opened especially for Ramzan was closed off by police, and a shopkeeper said this would normally be one of the busiest nights of the year.
Inside the Old City shops were open but the atmosphere was subdued and numbers of people much lower than normal.
Large numbers of heavily armed security forces were patrolling throughout the Old City, an AFP reporter said.
The Islamist movement Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip condemned the shooting of the Palestinians as a “crime by the occupation”. A spokesman for the movement, Hazem Qassem, said the attack was “proof that the Palestinian people are leading a revolution against the enemy”.
He also said the attack proved the Palestinian Authority’s policy of security coordination with Israel was wrong, calling it “a national crime”.
A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 272 Palestinians, 42 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. The Old City in annexed east Jerusalem is one of the focal points of the wave of violence.