Gaza groups squabble over credit for killing Golani soldiers

Hamas leaders in the Strip reportedly in hiding for fear of Israeli reprisal.

Hamas press conference 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Hamas press conference 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah continued to bicker over the weekend over which party was responsible for killing two IDF soldiers near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.
Each group issued a statement taking credit for the clash, triggering tensions between their armed wings and supporters. They have also accused each other of lying about this matter.
The goal of each group is to score points on the Palestinian street, especially since the clash came amid growing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians over the issues of Jerusalem, settlements and the Temple Mount.
Hamas leaders, meanwhile, have taken precautions in anticipation of Israeli reprisal. Some are said to have gone into hiding, while many Hamas-run institutions have been evacuated for fear of being targeted by the IAF.
The first to claim responsibility was Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, which said its “surveillance unit” spotted an IDF unit that had infiltrated the Gaza Strip and was surrounding gunmen belonging to Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Quds Battalions.
According to the Hamas group, its snipers opened fire at the Golani Brigade infantrymen as soon as they entered the Strip and surrounded the Islamic Jihad cell.
Hamas militiamen later took to the streets of Khan Yunis and Gaza City to celebrate the killing of the soldiers, eyewitnesses said.
Hamas political leaders also rushed to claim responsibility, saying the group maintained the right to prevent the IDF from invading the Gaza Strip. They said the operation was also a “gift” to slain Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whom the movement claims was assassinated by Israeli agents in Dubai on January 19.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said the Khan Yunis incident was a “natural response” to “daily Israeli aggression on our lands and people, as well as an expression of solidarity with Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque.”
Hamas, he added, “won’t sit quiet as Israel continues with its attempts to Judaize Jerusalem.”
Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, also rushed to take credit for killing the soldiers. A leaflet distributed by the group in the Gaza Strip claimed that its gunmen opened fire at the IDF unit after they found themselves ambushed.
However, journalists in the Strip said Fatah’s claim was not being taken seriously by many Palestinians.
 “Fatah in the Gaza Strip is very weak because of tough Hamas measures,” said one journalist. “There is much doubt as to their ability to launch such a sophisticated attack.”
The main dispute over the attack is now between Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which continues to insist that its men killed the soldiers.
According to Islamic Jihad, its men were planting bombs near the border with Israel when they were intercepted by the soldiers. The Golani patrol tried to kill the Islamic Jihad men, but came under fire from nearby, the group said in a statement.
Islamic Jihad said that the IDF’s version regarding the clashcorroborates its claim – that the soldiers were killed by gunfire andexplosions from close range and not from a distance.
Hamas snipers would have had to fire at the soldiers from at least 250meters away, but even the “Zionist enemy” has admitted that thesoldiers were not killed by sniper fire, Islamic Jihad spokesmenexplained.