A senior Hamas official admitted on videotape Wednesday that the group’s military wing, known as the Qassam Brigades, was behind the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teens in June.
The Jerusalem Post reports Israel has claimed since the boys went missing that Hamas was behind the abductions. That is a claim Hamas had previously denied.
The bodies of the three boys — Eyal Yifrah, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; Naftali Fraenkel, 16 — were discovered at the end of June in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Confirmation of their deaths provoked violence between Hamas and Israel that eventually spiraled into the war that continues in Gaza today.
A video capture, taken Wednesday at an event in Turkey sponsored by the World Association of Muslim Scholars, shows Saleh al-Arouri speaking about the kidnappings.
“It has been said that it is an Israeli conspiracy, and I say it isn’t,” al-Arouri said, according to Haaretz.
Many in the West Bank believe the kidnappings were staged by Israel in order to provide an excuse for the current war.
Al-Arouri said Wednesday that is not the case.
“The popular will was exercised throughout our occupied land, and culminated in the heroic operation by the Qassam Brigades in imprisoning the three settlers in Hebron,” he is quoted as saying by Newsweek.
It is unclear why now, after months of denying involvement, Hamas is claiming responsibility.
Bethan Staton, who covers events in the West Bank for Newsweek, said the claim could be part of a political strategy by Hamas to stir up fear among Israelis.
Regardless of the motivation, Staton said the admission would do little to sway public opinion regarding the events.
“The confession will confirm what people in Israel already thought,” she said. “West Bank residents don’t think it was Hamas (that kidnapped the teens) and are unlikely to change their minds.”
The ongoing violent conflict between Hamas and Israel began July 8. The fighting, so far, has killed 2,020 Palestinians and 67 Israelis, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
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