Hamas has acknowledged it kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in June, an event that helped spark its current war with Israel.

A senior exiled Hamas leader, Saleh Arouri, said at a conference in Turkey that the terrorist group's military wing carried out the operation with the intent of exchanging the Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners, according to the Associated Press.

"It was an operation by your brothers from the al-Qassam Brigades," Arouri said.

Arouri was the first Hamas leader to admit to the killings, which were long blamed on the group.

He said Hamas initially did not intend to provoke a long war, but that "Allah has chosen and willed that a large battle would be ignited."

The acknowledgement came on the same day that Israel killed three senior Hamas commanders in a military strike, by far the most deadly blow to the Hamas hierarchy in the six-week conflict, The New York Times reported.