Hamas, Which Rarely Claims West Bank Operations, Says It Carried Out Ariel Attack
Hamas, the Islamist group controlling Gaza, is taking advantage of the ‘weakness’ of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian expert says
The military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the terror attack in which an Israeli security guard was killed in the West Bank city of Ariel.
“This operation comes within a series of responses to the defiling of our Al-Aqsa [Mosque] and aggression against it,” said a statement issued on Monday by the military wing of Hamas. The attack which took place late on Friday night “will not be the last one, with God’s help,” it continued.
It is very unusual for Hamas to officially claim responsibility for an attack in the West Bank, which could indicate a shift in the group’s approach.
Yohanan Tzoreff, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and an expert on Palestinian affairs, told The Media Line that he doubts that Hamas was actually accountable for committing the attack.
He points out that the attack took place more than two days before Hamas released its statement.
“We know that there were people from Fatah who tried to take responsibility for it, and nobody from Hamas tried to deny that during all these days,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tzoreff says he is surprised that “the Israeli security system hasn’t declared anything about this issue, nor the Israeli politicians,” he said.
The attack can only be attributed to Hamas if Israeli officials make such a determination, he says.
Nihad Abu Ghosh, a Palestinian analyst from Ramallah, told The Media Line that taking responsibility for the attack does not mean that it was planned, arranged or managed by the Hamas organization.
“I think that this attack is a continuation of the same phenomenon, which is the wave of individual attacks like those in Tel Aviv, Hadera and Bnei Brak,” Abu Ghosh said.
He added that “Hamas had to take this risk for emotional reasons because the executors (attackers) are recognized and counted as from the organization affiliates; one of them is the son of a close companion for Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas.”
Whether or not Hamas was involved in the attack, the fact that it claimed responsibility is significant.
Tzoreff believes Hamas is trying to position itself as the main leader of the Palestinian people.
“It’s trying to erase the Palestinian Authority as the real representative of the Palestinian people,” he said. “It does it by showing the people that the way of Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority is not the correct way,” he added, using the nom de guerre of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abu Ghosh said that this is a clear message that Hamas is undermining the Palestinian Authority’s influence over the West Bank.
“It is clear that the official leadership acted very slow, showed weakness, and could not even hold a meeting to discuss the crises,” he said of the PA.
Hamas took advantage of that and tried to prove that it is the address to discuss issues involving the Palestinians, Abu Ghosh explained. “Some regional and international parties talked with Hamas and did not talk with President Abbas about the escalation,” he added.
Tzoreff said that what Hamas also wants to achieve at this moment is to increase demonstrations throughout the West Bank and, if possible, among Arab citizens of Israel, as well as Palestinians living in Arab countries.
“They want the escalation to be part of the daily atmosphere in all these communities of Palestinians; This is the main idea that Hamas has tried to create since last January,” he said.
Additionally, the experts think that this is intended to send a message to Israel.
“Hamas aimed to prove that it is concerned with everything that happens in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Israel cannot isolate Gaza from Jerusalem and the West Bank. It wanted to say that the militant choice is still on table,” he said.
“I think they want to say to Israel that they didn’t leave terror,” Tzoreff said, and that they still have the backs of the people who are committing terror attacks.
He also points out that, by claiming responsibility for the attack, Hamas intended to send a message to the Palestinian people.
“They wanted to show the Palestinians that Hamas hasn’t changed and that they are even stronger than they were before,” he said.