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Israel

'Islamic State' claims Israel stabbing attack, but so does Hamas

For the first time, the "Islamic State" has claimed direct responsibility for an attack in Israel. A border guard who was responding to a shooting attack when she was stabbed multiple times has been killed.

The "Islamic State" (IS) claimed responsibility on Saturday for the fatal stabbing of an Israeli policewoman outside Jerusalem's Old City.

In an online statement, the militant group claimed that fighters had targeted a "gathering of Jews" and warned that "this attack will not be the last."

Police said two people shot at a group of officers, who returned fire. The three attackers were shot dead. Meanwhile, at another location, one person stabbed a border policewoman before being shot.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said Hadas Malka, 23, was responding to the initial shooting when she was assaulted with a knife. Malka wrestled with the man for several seconds as he stabbed her multiple times before other officers saw what was happening and opened fire, killing him, Samri said. Malka later died of her wounds in hospital.

IS 'revenge' attack?

Israel has been hit by several IS-inspired attacks in the past, and authorities have arrested people with suspected links to the group, but this is the first time IS has directly claimed responsibility for an attack on Israeli soil.

IS claimed that the attack was "revenge for the religion of Allah and the sanctities of the violated Muslims."

"Let the Jews watch for the demise of their state at the hands of the soldiers of the caliphate," the statement said.

But Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, rejected the claim, saying the attackers had come from among its ranks and those of a leftist liberation movement.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abou Zouhri said the IS claim was an attempt to "muddy the waters," adding that the attack was carried out by "two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and a third from Hamas."

The killing was "a natural response to the crimes of the occupier," he said, echoing the language used by Hamas after other recent attacks in Israel.

A spokesman for Israel's internal security agency told AFP it was "impossible to corroborate (the IS claim) at this point."

The Israeli army refuted claims by both IS and Hamas saying that its preliminary intelligence evaluation "found no evidence of them belonging to any group, rather they appear to have been a typical popular terror squad."

Ramadan attack

The attack happened as Muslims marked the end of the third Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan, during which tens of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank attended prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site.

It was the latest in a wave of attacks on civilians and soldiers that erupted in 2015.

In that time Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British student, mainly in stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks. Israel has killed 250 Palestinians during the same period, mostly identified as attackers.

shs, aw/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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