The Shin Bet released on Thursday further information about the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in June, including the transfer of money from Gaza to Hebron to fund the triple killing and the failed escape to Jordan of Hussam Kawasme, who allegedly helped bury the three teens on his land and was indicted Thursday in a military court.
Kawasme, 40, was arrested on July 11. He later admitted to his role in the attack and fingered other family members and acquaintances, detailing their role in the June 12 killing of Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, after the three Israeli teens were abducted from a hitchhiking post in Gush Etzion in the central West Bank.
The disappearance of the three triggered a massive search operation and crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, with hundreds of members being arrested. Tensions were further ratcheted up after the teens’ bodies were found outside Hebron in late June, and an East Jerusalem teen was allegedly killed by a Jewish Israeli, sparking a 50-day battle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The two men suspected of carrying out the murders, Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu-Ayshe, are still at large.
“They’ll make their mistake and we’ll get to them, too,” a senior Shin Bet officer said in a briefing.
The officer revealed that the terror attack is believed to have been a local initiative rather than a directive from above, and that, according to Hussam Kawasme’s confession, Marwan Kawasme arrived at his house at one in the morning on the night of the attack and said: “We wanted to kidnap one, we kidnapped three. We got tangled up. We killed them.”
The two men at the heart of the attack were the brothers Hussam and Mahmoud Kawasme. The latter, who lives in Gaza, was released from a 20-year sentence in an Israeli prison for his role in a 2004 suicide attack in Beersheba and exiled, as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, to the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.
Hussam, whom the Shin Bet said played a “staff officer role” in the attack, asked his brother for, and received, NIS 220,000 ($61,000) in cash in order to fund an attack, the Shin Bet said.
With the money, which was allegedly hand-delivered to Hussam’s mother in envelopes, he bought two rifles and two handguns from Adnan Zaro, 34, of Hebron, and two cars – one for the abduction and one for the escape.
After disposing of the bodies and torching the newly stolen Hyundai i-35 used for the kidnapping, the Shin Bet said, Marwan Kawasme arrived at Hussam’s house and explained the complications in the plan. The two then allegedly decided to retrieve the bodies and to bury them on a plot of land that Hussam had recently purchased.
The Shin Bet said that the land had not been bought for this purpose, Haaretz reported.
Hussam helped Marwan and Amar Abu-Aysha, who was not involved in the burial of the bodies, escape and hide on land belonging to Arafat Kawasme, 50, of Hebron, who was initially told that the men were wanted by the Palestinian Authority.
The two reportedly hid in a sewage pit in a field in Hebron for several days and then, after spending a night in the open air under an oak tree, disappeared.
On June 30, once the bodies were found by an Israeli search team, Hussam, the owner of the land, was forced to go on the lam. “He planned to flee to Jordan on a forged document, along with two other family members,” the Shin Bet said. But in an intelligence operation “he was found and arrested in his [East Jerusalem] hiding spot in the refugee camp of Shuafat.”
All told, eight operatives and accomplices allegedly directly related to the crime were arrested. The information they revealed was passed on to the military court system.