Israeli forces are drawing closer to the two suspected killers of three Israeli teens, and believe the two are armed and ready for a standoff, Channel 10 reported Wednesday.
The IDF on Wednesday morning pressed on with its search for Marwan Kawasme, 29, and Amar Abu Aysha, 32, who officials suspect seized and killed Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gil-ad Shaar on June 12. The military arrested 39 more West Bank Palestinians overnight, Ma’an news agency reported.
The security cabinet convened Tuesday evening to discuss the nature of Israel’s response to the murders, but there was no immediate word on what had been decided. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said “Hamas will pay” for the killings. A discussion held on Monday night, soon after the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found, yielded no definitive response and reports said ministers were at odds.
The Israeli teenagers’ bodies were found near Hebron on Monday afternoon. Palestinian security forces are aiding the IDF in its hunt for the perpetrators.
The military has cordoned off a small area near the West Bank town of Halhul where Kawasme and Abu Aysha are believed to be holed up, the Channel 10 report said. Abu Aysha and Kawasme have operated in the Hebron area for several years, and are believed to be intimately familiar with the caves and tunnels dotting the rugged terrain surrounding Halhul.
They likely drew lessons from previous kidnappings of Israeli military personnel and civilians carried out by terrorist organizations. Security officials believe that the two planned in advance to remain in hiding for a long period of time, and stockpiled food in order to support themselves without outside assistance during a manhunt.
The IDF is said to be prepared for the possibility of a shootout with Kawasme and Abu Aysha.
The bodies of Yifrach, Fraenkel and Shaar were found on Monday partially buried in a field outside Halhul. They were laid to rest side-by-side at a cemetery in the central city of Modi’in Tuesday afternoon.