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Tuesday, March 15, 2011     GET REAL

Iran-backed group claims credit for murdering Jewish family as 'natural response'

RAMALLAH — An Iranian-sponsored wing of the Fatah movement has claimed responsibility for the killing of a Jewish family in the West Bank.


The Imad Mughniyeh squad has claimed responsibility for the killing of five members of an Israeli family in the Jewish community of Itamar on March 12. The squad, part of the Fatah-sponsored Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said one of its fighters infiltrated Itamar and knifed the Jewish parents and three children, one of them a three-month-old.

"The operation was a natural response to the crimes of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," the Mughniyeh squad said.

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[On March 15, the Israeli military said it seized a ship suspected of smuggling weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. The ship, identified as Victoria, was said to have begun its journey in Turkey and destined to the Egyptian port of El Arish.]

The statement, first released on March 12, said the attacker returned home safely after the mission. The squad termed the mission as successful.

Palestinian sources said the Mughniyeh squad stemmed from Iranian support of West Bank militias for operations against Israel. They said the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah was responsible for funding and equipping Fatah fighters, including Palestinian Authority police officers, to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Mughniyeh was believed to have been helped by other Iranian-supported groups. The sources said previous squad operations were aided by Hamas, which denied any role in the killings.

The status of Al Aqsa, which at one point contained more than 1,500 fighters, has been debated among diplomats. Most of the diplomats who serve in the West Bank have concluded that Al Aqsa was no longer functioning. But Palestinian sources said members of the insurgency group were still active in planning attacks that could be credited to Fatah without implicating the PA.

On March 14, however, Al Aqsa issued a statement that denied any involvement in the killings. Al Aqsa said it opposed the "targeting of civilians and killing of children no matter what the pretext might be."

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