Hamas and Islamic Jihad say they killed hikers

Groups release statement claiming responsibility for W. Bank murders; PA: Attack criminally-motivated.

Hamas gunmen 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas gunmen 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Friday's terror attack near Hebron which left two off-duty soldiers dead while they were hiking with a friend, Israel Radio reported. The organizations released a joint statement on Sunday, condemning Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's government for saying that the incident was criminally motivated. The statement also relayed the name of the gunman killed in the gunfight, Bas-el Nabil al-Nache. Reports regarding responsibility over the attack have conflicted since it took place two days ago. On Friday, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in a news conference in the Gaza Strip. On Saturday, the Islamic Jihad said the dead gunman was a member of its West Bank cell, adding that three others who participated in the attack survived the clash and were in hiding. Earlier Sunday, Palestinian Authority Police Chief of Hebron Samih A-Safi said that the Israelis were victims of a business dispute. In an interview with the Palestinian News Agency Ma'an, A-Safi said the perpetrators confessed to killing Pvt. Ahikam Amihai, 20, and Sgt. David Rubin, 21 out of criminal, not terrorist motivations. "The suspects said that they don't belong to any political body or any kind of faction," he added. This theory was first forwarded on Saturday by PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, who told Al-Arabia that he, too, believed the cause of the attack to be a business dispute, and that he came to this conclusion after hearing details of the investigation. Also Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told ministers at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel can take no steps to forward peace if the Palestinian Authority does not fulfill its obligations. "As long as the Palestinian Authority doesn't implement the measures demanded of them, in the way which is demanded of them in order to act against terror organizations, the state of Israel will not be able to make any changes on the ground," Olmert said. Unilateral action would "expose Israel to dangers and could bring about security problems," Olmert continued. "We do not plan to compromise on these issues, and they will continue to be an integral part of any dialogue with the PA." Amihai and Rubin were killed on Friday in a shooting attack near Kiryat Arba. The two managed to open fire on their attackers, killing one of them and seriously injuring another. AP contributed to this report.