A senior Hamas leader has said the group carried out the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June—the first time anyone from the group has said it was behind an attack that helped spark the current war in the Gaza Strip. Saleh Arouri told a conference in Turkey on Wednesday that Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, carried out what he described as a “heroic operation” with the broader goal of sparking a new Palestinian uprising.
[Hamas] did not have the intention at this time to ignite a large battle. But Allah has chosen and willed that a large battle would be ignited.
Saleh Arouri, a senior Hamas leader in exile
The kidnappings of the three teens while they were hitchhiking on June 12, along with the discovery of their bodies two weeks later, sparked a broad Israeli crackdown on Hamas members throughout the West Bank. Hamas responded with heavy rocket fire out of the Gaza Strip, leading Israel to launch an aerial and ground invasion of the territory. More than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials, while 67 Israelis have also been killed, all but three of them soldiers.