Hamas, in an unusual statement issued on Monday evening, claimed responsibility for the attack and announced that it was the opening of a “new phase” of quality attacks against Israel.
The statement said that the attack “was a response that is part of a chain of reactions of the Hamas military wing to the aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Hamas spokesman ‘Abd al-Latif al-Qa’un also stated that the announcement by Hamas’ military wing of its responsibility for carrying out “the heroic attack marks the opening of a new phase in resistance to the occupation in the West Bank and the victory in the al-Aqsa Mosque. This is a reaffirmation of its willingness to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and thwart any attempt to divide it. ”
The two terrorists, Yahya Marai, 19, and Yussef Assi, 20, were arrested less than 24 hours after the attack. It was initially estimated that they were not dispatched by a terrorist organization but one of them is affiliated with Hamas. One of them had previously served a short prison term in an Israeli prison.
Sources in the Arab village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, from which the two terrorists came, say they were affiliated with the Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, leading some Israeli experts to doubt Hamas’ announcement.
Others reports indicate that the father of one of the terrorists, who was arrested for assisting them, was close to Hamas’ former leader Ahmed Yassin.
However, many pundits believe the announcement is genuine and indicates an uptick in Hamas’ campaign against Israel.
Hezi Simantov, Channel 13 Arab Affairs commentator, wrote that Hamas’ taking responsibility for the terrorist attack in Ariel is “an escalation and a shift in its trend of pushing for terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria.”
Hamas has been behind the wave of attacks in Israel and has incited them, but has yet to take direct responsibility for the attacks.
“Hamas Gaza announces that it takes responsibility for the attack in Ariel and promises more attacks, meaning there is an address: Hamas’ military wing in Gaza,” and therefore, Israel’s security establishment will “have to decide whether to hit the military wing in Gaza or restrain itself and respond only to rocket fire.”
Dana Ben Shimon, a correspondent and commentator on Palestinian affairs and the Arab world, explained that Hamas’ taking responsibility for the attack “marks a change in policy for the organization,” and this means two things. First, “Hamas is no longer afraid to leave clear fingerprints, and is ‘inviting’ Israel to respond in the Gaza Strip.”
Second, Hamas “feels it is not alone, and that ‘the regional resistance axis’ is with it and that the entire Islamic Jihad army is behind it.”
Israeli analyst Yoni Ben Menachem, of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), thinks that Hamas claiming responsibility “indicates that Hamas’ military arm is succeeding, after a few months, in rebuilding its military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, which received a severe blow from the Shin Bet, and has planted ‘dormant squads’ in the area. Hamas has not disappeared and is recovering militarily despite the Shin Bet’s counterterrorism activities and the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus.”
Israel has yet to respond to Hamas’ announcement.