Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal has again denied his movement’s involvement in the killing of three Israeli teenagers on June 12, and tried via the Turkish prime minister to dissuade Israel from launching a massive strike on the Gaza Strip, Sky News Arabia reported on Wednesday.
Unnamed sources told the British channel that Mashaal has attempted to convey a message to Israel through the Turks saying that Hamas is uninterested in escalation, and continues to adhere to a ceasefire agreement reached with Israel following Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. Mashaal also said that “Hamas had no involvement or knowledge” of the kidnapping.
Mashaal’s statements came amid a military escalation in the Gaza Strip, with Hamas claiming responsibility on Monday night for the firing of rockets into southern Israel. The Israeli Air Force struck 34 targets in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, carrying out “precision strikes” against Hamas and Islamic Jihad structures, the IDF said in a statement.
Hamas media reported a phone call between Mashaal and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan late Monday night, in which Mashaal updated his counterpart on “the Israeli escalation against the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas of standing behind the kidnapping and murder of Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel, whose bodies were found in a field outside Hebron on Monday. The two suspected kidnappers, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme — still at large — are known members of Hamas in Hebron.
Mashaal has already publicly denied knowledge of the kidnapping. In an interview with Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera on June 23, the Hamas leader said that in the absence of information on the youths’ whereabouts, he could “neither confirm nor deny” Hamas’s involvement.
“Blessed be the hands that captured them,” Mashaal added, however. “This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people. Our prisoners must be freed; not Hamas’s prisoners — the prisoners of the Palestinian people.”