Islamic State claims fatal stabbing of Israeli policewoman; Israel unconvinced

The Islamic State on Friday night claimed responsibility for a coordinated shooting and stabbing terror attack in Jerusalem that killed an Israeli police officer, Hadas Malka, 23, in what the jihadist group vowed would be the first of many attacks.

The jihadist group in an online statement said three IS fighters had targeted “a gathering of Jews” in an operation Friday, and warned that “this attack will not be the last.”

“With God’s help, we succeeded in carrying out an attack in the heart of Jerusalem,” the group said.

This was the first time that the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack in Israel, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist organizations.

Such claims are often impossible to corroborate, and Islamic State has taken responsibility in the past for attacks in which it was not directly involved.

Hamas dismissed the claim. Israeli officials also cast doubt on it, saying there was no indication of IS involvement, and that the attack did not appear to have been directed by any group.

Islamic State affiliates have claimed rocket fire into Israel, and previous terror attacks in Israel have been Islamic State-inspired. At least two 2016 attacks were inspired by Islamic State, according to Israeli officials: a January 1, 2016, shooting in Tel Aviv that left two bar-goers and a cab driver dead, and a truck attack in Jerusalem in December 2016 in which four soldiers on a tour of cultural sites were slain.

In its statement, IS said the attack was “revenge for the religion of Allah and the sanctities of the violated Muslims.”

“Let the Jews watch for the demise of their state at the hands of the soldiers of the Caliphate,” the statement added.

Three West Bank Palestinians, armed with an automatic weapon and knives, carried out near simultaneous attacks at two adjacent locations. Two attacked a group of police officers at Zedekiah’s Cave, and a third stabbed Malka a short distance away at Damascus Gate. The 23-year-old staff sergeant died of her wounds at Hadassah Hospital in Mount Scopus.

The attackers were identified by the Shin Bet internal security agency as Bra’a Salah and Asama Atta, both born in 1998, and Adel Ankush, born the following year. All three were shot dead as they carried out their attacks at the scene by security forces.

The attackers were from Deir Abu-Mashal, a village near Ramallah, and had previously been arrested for or involved in “terrorist activity,” a Shin Bet statement said. Security forces late Friday night surrounded Deir Abu-Mash’al, and were preparing to raid the assailants’ homes to question their family members regarding the attack.

Early on Saturday morning, Hamas rejected IS’s claim of responsibility, saying the three belonged to Palestinian terrorist organizations.

“The claim by the Islamic State group is an attempt to muddy the waters,” said Sami Abou Zouhri, spokesman for the terrorist group which runs the Gaza strip.

The attack was carried out by “two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas,” he said.

In the wake of the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revoked the entry permits given to Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to visit their relatives in Israel.

Israel had eased restrictions on the entrance of Palestinians from the West Bank for Ramadan, including permitting daily family visits during Sundays through Thursdays.

Netanyahu canceled the family visits at the recommendation of Chief of Police Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, according to a police statement.

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.

Israel last month announced that it was relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians to and from the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, including easier access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, issuing more travel permits and allowing some to travel abroad. The measures were similar to those of previous years.

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