At the funeral of one of the people who carried out the terrorist attack at Eli on Tuesday, the Hamas terror group was clearly present.
Four Israelis were killed and four were wounded when two gunmen opened fire on a gas station and hummus restaurant near the settlement. One of the gunmen was killed on the spot by a gunshot, while another fled and was killed hours later by security personnel.
At Khaled Sabah’s funeral procession in the village of Urif, a nighttime video showed Hamas members waving green flags, chanting that Hamas is their “army” and the Quran is their “constitution,” and calling Muhammad Deif, commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, by name. It was a possible demonstration of Hamas’ growing hold on the north of the West Bank and a relatively rare show of force by the group in the West Bank. Since it violently overthrew Fatah in 2007 and took control of the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organization controls all civilian and military activities in the enclave. However, it has kept its operations in the West Bank, where the rival Fatah-led Palestinian Authority is in charge, under wraps.
On Tuesday, a Hamas spokesperson claimed responsibility for the Eli attack, describing it as a “heroic” response to the deaths of seven Palestinians on Monday in intense fighting in Jenin between gunmen and Israeli troops. Hamas claimed that the two terrorists belonged to its ranks. Ohad Hemo, a Palestinian affairs correspondent, stated that Hamas in Gaza appeared to have planned, directed, and funded the attack. The group’s activities in the West Bank would be enhanced as a result of this.
The group’s attack is seen as part of a larger strategy to increase tensions in the West Bank and present itself as the true face of the Palestinian “resistance,” as opposed to the ruling Palestinian Authority, which a large portion of the Palestinian public views as weak, corrupt, and ineffective. A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that, if elections were held today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would win with support from 56% of Palestinians, while PA President Mahmoud Abbas would only win with 33%. Since 2006, the PA has prevented elections from taking place in the Palestinian territories.
Harel Masood, 21, Elisha Anteman, 17, Ofer Fayerman, 64, and Shmuel Mordoff, 17, were killed in the attack, which took place near the settlement of Eli. The two Hamas terrorists opened fire on a gas station and a hummus restaurant that were nearby. An armed Israeli civilian shot and killed one of the terrorists, 26-year-old Muhannad Faleh Shehadeh, while Khaled Mustafa Sabah, 24, stole a vehicle from one of the victims and fled the scene. He was killed by Israeli special forces two hours later, close to the Palestinian village of Tubas.
The terrorist group said in a statement that the attack was in response to the Palestinian deaths in Jenin on Monday. When gunmen started shooting at the soldiers, a joint operation between the IDF and Border Police to arrest two wanted Palestinians escalated, resulting in numerous firefights. An explosive device struck a military vehicle as security forces were leaving the city, causing damage to the vehicle and injuring seven soldiers. Helicopters carried the wounded soldiers to Israeli hospitals.
Israel’s military has been conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a string of deadly Palestinian terror attacks, escalating tensions between the Palestinians and Israel. Jenin has been the target of numerous raids to capture terror suspects. The IDF and gunmen engaged in a gun battle during the raid on Monday, resulting in the deaths of nine Palestinians and several injuries, making it the deadliest since January.