PALESTINIAN HAMAS SUPPORTERS in Gaza celebrate the Ariel terrorist attack, earlier this week. (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)

Several Palestinian factions on Thursday welcomed the murder of off-duty soldier Dvir Sorek in the Gush Etzion area, while the Palestinian Authority expressed fear that Israel would use the terror attack to intensify its security measures against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The factions and many Palestinian activists urged Palestinians living in villages in the Gush Etzion area to immediately delete footage or remove private security cameras so as to prevent the IDF from identifying the terrorists.

In separate statements, the Palestinian factions praised the “heroic operation” and said it was a “natural response to Israeli crimes.”

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab described the murder as “heroic” and “bold” and said it carried an important message to Israel because of its policy of holding Palestinians in administrative detention. 

“This operation is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation, the latest of which was the demolition of houses in Wadi al-Hummus,” he said, referring to the recent demolition by the IDF of illegal buildings near the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher.

“The operation,” he added, “affirms that al settlers and occupation soldiers are legitimate targets for the Palestinian resistance.” He also praised the terrorists who carried out the attack and expressed hope that there would be more “heroic operations” against settlers and soldiers.

In a statement welcoming the murder of 19-year-old Sorek, Hamas also praised it as a “heroic operation.”

Hamas said that the attack came was a “practical response” to recent talk about Israeli intentions to annex parts of the West bank.

Hamas claimed that the off-duty soldier had “graduated” from a military college that advocates the ‘killing of Palestinians and seizure of their land.”

Hamas called on the Palestinian Authority and its security forces to immediately halt security coordination with the IDF in the West Bank and to “side the with the Palestinians in defending their land.”

Senior Hamas official Izzat al-Risheq praised the murder and accused Israel of “committing crimes and acts of terrorism against the Palestinian people.” He said that such attacks send a message that the “occupation is on its way to ending.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem also linked the murder to the recent demolitions in Wadi al-Hummus. “The Gush Etzion operation is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation, including the recent Wadi al-Hummus crime,” he said.

The PLO’s Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) were also quick to publish statements praising the murder of Sorek.

“We praise the [Gush] Etzion operation, which is a natural response to the presence of the occupation,” the PFLP said. “This operation proves that the resistance is the most effective way to fight the settlers and Zionist soldiers, who are not safe on any part of the land of Palestine.”

The DFLP said that the terror attack was a “legitimate right of our people in response to the crimes of the occupation.” The group warned that Israel’s “stepped up measures” won’t deter the Palestinians from pursuing the “resistance in all forms and means.”

A PA official in Ramallah pointed out that the murder of Sorek came on the eve of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha. He said he did not rule out the possibility that a Hamas cell was behind the attack.

“Our major concern now is that Israel would use the killing to escalate its security measures against our people, especially ahead of Eid al-Adha, which starts on Sunday,” the official said. “Whoever carried out this attack also acted against the interests of our people.”

Another PA official said that the Palestinian security forces were conducting their own investigation into the terror attack. The official refused to say whether the Palestinian security forces were helping the Israeli authorities lay their hands on those behind the attack.

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