IDF forces operating late Sunday demolished the Hebron homes of two men suspected of involvement in the in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June, the army announced Monday.
They also sealed off the home of a third man suspected of being the mastermind behind the abduction and killing, which set off a series of events, raising tensions in the region and leading to a month-long military engagement with Gaza.
“We are determined in bringing the ruthless murderers of Gil-Ad [Shaar], Eyal [Yifrach] and Naftali [Fraenkel] to justice,” IDF spokesman Lt.-Colonel Peter Lerner said Monday. “The demolition of the terrorists’ homes conveys a clear message to terrorists and their accomplices that there is a personal price to pay when engaging in terror and carrying out attacks against Israelis.”
Security forces destroyed the homes of Hussam Kawasme, accused of planning the attack, and Amer Abu Aysha, accused of carrying out the kidnapping and murder, but thus far have only sealed off the Hebron home of Abu Aysha’s accomplice, Marwan Kawasme.
Marwan Kawasme and Abu Aysha are both still at large. Israeli officials said earlier this month that Hussam Kawasme had been arrested and admitted to planning the attack with Hamas help.
A number of Palestinians were wounded in clashes between Israeli security forces and protesters near the demolition sites, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
The IDF issued the demolition order in mid-July and carried it out overnight Sunday after the High Court of Justice denied several appeals in the matter. Marwan Kawasme’s home is also slated to be demolished.
Israel has demolished the homes of suspected terrorists in the past, and the practice has been challenged unsuccessfully in court.
Hussam Kawasme was arrested by Israel July 11 near Jerusalem, where he was hiding and plotting his escape to Jordan. Kawasme admitted to receiving money for the attack from Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip, according to details released by police earlier this month.
Hussam also said that the alleged killers drove to his house after killing the three youths. Together, they drove to the plot of land in Halhul, near Hebron, where the IDF found the teens’ bodies, which was bought by Kawasme ahead of time. There, they buried the three.
He also helped the two killers hide from the Israeli security forces who were scouring the West Bank for them, the Haaretz daily reported, citing the Shin Bet security service.
Shaar, Yifrach and Fraenkel were abducted and killed near Hebron on June 12. Their kidnapping and abduction sparked a massive search operation and crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, with hundreds of members arrested. Tensions further ratcheted up after the teens’ bodies were found outside Hebron at the end of June, and an East Jerusalem teen was killed by a Jewish Israeli in an apparent revenge attack, sparking days of unrest throughout the country and in the West Bank and heavy rocket fire on Israel.
On July 8, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to stymie the rocket fire with airstrikes and later carried out a limited ground incursion into Gaza to destroy a network of cross-border attack tunnels.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.