By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli authorities said on Saturday they had found no evidence of Islamic State involvement in attacks by three Palestinians that killed an Israeli policewoman, despite the group’s claim of responsibility.
Palestinian militant factions also denied Islamic State was involved in the attacks in Jerusalem on Friday, in which a second Israeli police officer was wounded.
Islamic State’s claim of responsibility was reported by the group’s Amaq news agency on Friday.
Police spokeswoman Luba Simri said the Israeli military had so far found no connection between the three assailants and any armed group.
“It was a local cell. At this stage no indication has been found it was directed by terrorist organizations nor has any connection to any organization been found,” Simri said.
The SITE intelligence monitoring group said it was the first time Islamic State had claimed responsibility for an attack inside Israeli-controlled territory.
However, a senior official from Hamas, the Islamic group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said the three attackers, who were all shot dead at the scene, were their own members.
“The three hero martyrs who executed the Jerusalem operation have no connection to Daesh (Islamic State), they are affiliated with the PFLP and Hamas,” Hamas’ Izzat El-Reshiq wrote on Twitter.
In a separate statement, the PFLP identified two of the three attackers as its members. “The media office of the PFLP armed wing mourns two of its hero comrades, two freed prisoners,” it said.
Israeli police said on Friday all the assailants were from the occupied West Bank. Two of them, both from the area of Ramallah, were aged between 18 and 19 and the third was a 30-year-old from Hebron, Simri said.
The assaults took place simultaneously in two areas near the Damascus gate of Jerusalem’s walled old city.
Two Palestinians were shot dead after opening fire at and trying to stab a group of Israeli police officers, police said. In the second incident, a Palestinian fatally stabbed a border policewoman before being shot dead by police.
A wave of Palestinian street attacks began in October 2015 but has since slowed. Thirty-eight Israelis, two American tourists and a British student have been killed in stabbings, shootings and car-rammings, many of which took place in the vicinity of the Old City’s Damascus gate.
At least 252 Palestinians and one Jordanian citizen have been killed since the violence began. Israel says at least 170 of those killed were carrying out attacks. Others died during clashes and protests.
Israel blames the violence on incitement by the Palestinian leadership.
The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, denies that and says assailants have acted out of desperation over Israeli occupation of land sought by Palestinians for a state.
U.S.-brokered peace talks between the sides broke down in 2014. Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Paul Tait and Adrian Croft)