By August 22, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

ISIS in the West Bank, Not Hamas, First Claimed Responsibility For Kidnapping Those Israeli Teens

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There has been a lot of buzz in the Israeli media this week. The claim has been that Binyamin Netanyahu was “right all along” to bomb the civilians of Gaza. Why? Because Hamas was indeed behind the kidnappings of those three Israeli teens in the West Bank: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16. At least that’s what’s being said…

Now bear in mind that the West Bank is not Hamas turf, it is Fatah: the same Fatah that Hamas went to war with in the Battle of Gaza. But nevertheless, Netanyahu claimed it was Hamas’s fault.

Many who know the region and politics of the groups involved said that this was out of character for Hamas who we would have expected to have used the teens for a prisoner “swap”. As well, for weeks – months even – Hamas not only never claimed this was their handiwork, they denied it outright. Had they been responsible, one would have expected Hamas to have taken credit right from the start, as they so often do.

But one group that did claim to be in the same neck of the woods was ISIS, and even though it received relatively little press internationally, they were the first to claim responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of these boys. A pamphlet issued by the so-called “Islamist State in Iraq and Syria” or “ISIS” and circulated around Hebron, claimed responsibility.

While Netanyahu fixated on Hamas, however, ISIS has been building in Iraq and even still in the West Bank, whereas Hamas has claimed that they will fight ISIS if they try to enter the Gaza Strip and lay down roots there.

Instead of paying a bit of attention to this, Israeli hawks have been hyper-fixating on a YouTube video of Saleh Arouri, an exiled Hamas official, who told a conference in Turkey on Wednesday that Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, carried out what he described as a “heroic operation”. But as an organization and party, Gazan Hamas, and their Qatar-based leader Khaled Meshaal, has still rejected this claim over and over again. Western media has ignored that pesky fact.

“It was an operation by your brothers from the al-Qassam Brigades,” Arouri said, in spite of the fact that no one else in Hamas agreed with this claim.

In November 2013 three ISIS agents were killed in the Hebron area. The pamphlet released by ISIS right after this kidnapping in the West Bank said that the three kidnapped boys were in direct retaliation for the killed ISIS members. In fact, one of those ISIS members who was killed, Mohamed Nairukh, had been expelled from the ranks of Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades due to his radical religious beliefs and objection to Hamas’ political involvement. This would seem to back up Hamas’ claims that they will fight any ISIS encroachment into the Gaza Strip.

While the ISIS cells in the West Bank likely are not directly emanating from the organizational structure in Iraq and Syria, they are instead probably an existing cell which has adopted the ISIS name, marching under its banner. Something similar happened two years ago, when Palestinian groups carried out operations under the banner of the Nusra Front, which had risen to prominence in the Syrian civil war as the leader of the rebels. Similar groups operating in Sinai and Gaza such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdas have claimed affiliation to Al-Qaeda, but not been under any such direct leadership.

Arouri has long been recognized as part of the dying hardline camp of Hamas. It is not outside of the realm of reason to suggest that now, late in the game, he is trying to attribute credit for this kidnapping for the group which has been increasingly moving away from policies that he favors.

Either way, the fact is that it was this ISIS cell which claimed responsibility. Whether ISIS’s claim is true or not, what we know for sure is that it is only now, very late in the game that Arouri apparently tried to rake in credit for an attack that the mainstream organization of Hamas has affirmed they had nothing to do with.

It would seem that now would be a good time for reconciliation, not just lasting, permanent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah (without interference), but also between the Palestinian Unity government and Israel. Whatever each side thinks about one another, there is a much worse enemy – by all standards – who has infiltrated the region now.

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