A senior Hamas official has claimed that the organization’s military wing was behind the kidnapping of the three Israeli boys who were found dead in June, according to Hebrew-language reports in the Israeli media.
A video captured during a conference organized by the World Association of Muslim Scholars in Turkey, and aired on Israeli television Wednesday, shows Hamas official Salach Al-Aruri crediting Al-Qassam Brigades with organizing the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.
Prior to this statement, Hamas had denied responsibility for the kidnapping, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to allege that the organization was behind it. Meanwhile, analysts suggested that a rogue Hamas cell, which does not take its orders from Gaza, was responsible.
“There was much speculation about this operation, some said it was a conspiracy,” Al-Aruri told delegates at the conference. “The popular will was exercised throughout our occupied land, and culminated in the heroic operation by the Al-Qassam Brigades in capturing the three settlers in Hebron.”
“This was an operation from your brothers in Al-Qassam undertaken to aid their brothers on hunger strike in (Israeli) prisons,” he added.
The Hamas official did not identify the three Israeli boys as “soldiers,” as the organization had previously done. Instead he referred to them as “settlers.”
Al-Aruri’s remarks come on the heels of a re-escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel, and the latter’s apparent attempt to assassinate the head of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif. That strike instead resulted in the death of Deif’s wife and infant son.
Al-Aruri, who served a 16-year sentence in Israeli prison before being expelled from the country, and who recruited the leader of a Hamas terror network in the West Bank, came up as a potential player in the kidnapping soon after it happened, according to Haaretz.