IDF soldiers arrested in Hebron on Saturday a former member of Hamas who is suspected of aiding the killers of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on June 12.
Husam Dofsh, who had been reported missing from his home since the abduction, called the Walla News desk hours after it was reported Friday that he was suspected of assisting in the abduction and killing of Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel, 16; and Gil-ad Shaar, 16.
Dofsh said that he was calling from his home and insisted he had taken no part in the kidnapping. He was apprehended by Israeli soldiers in a Hebron coffee shop soon after the call, and did not admit to complicity in the killing.
The Israeli military had raided Dofsh’s family house in Hebron several times since the abduction, notifying the family that he was wanted for questioning. But he was never at home when the raids took place and did not turn himself in to the IDF even after he was declared a suspect.
“I did not turn myself in because I did not do anything wrong,” Dofsh said after his arrest. “I saw online, and people also told me, that I was tied to the mess, but I did not kidnap and didn’t do anything. I just want to continue my life.” He added that he was watching the World Cup at the cafe when security forces came to arrest him.
Aside from Dofsh, Israeli authorities have named two Hamas members as prime suspects in the crime: Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, who have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping and killings took place.
Dofsh has been detained by Israeli security forces in the past and has served time in Israeli prisons. His family is known to be affiliated with Hamas.
Two of Dofsh’s relatives were involved in the planning and carrying out of several terror attacks, according to a Palestinian source. In 2003, one of Dofsh’s relatives, Jihad Dofsh, was killed in what was described as a “work accident” in a Hamas explosives lab in Hebron. One of Kawasme’s relatives, Hatem Kawasme, was killed in the same incident.
The Israeli teenagers’ bodies were found near Halhul last Monday. Palestinian security forces were aiding the IDF in its hunt for the perpetrators.
Over the last few weeks, Israeli investigators discovered that Abu Aysha and Kawasme had left their mobile phones behind, prepared food caches in their homes, and each had opened a bank account under his wife’s name. Investigators also believe that Kawasme and Abu Aysha did not act alone.
In a recording of a desperate phone call made by one of the Israeli teenagers several minutes after the kidnapping, the two abductors can be heard cheering and notifying another person over the phone of their deed.
One of the kidnappers is heard shouting “Three!” in Arabic. He and his accomplice can then be heard singing happily and cheering, before the recording ends.
Military sources said the kidnappers likely shot the three teenagers during the call, after they realized the Israelis had tried to alert the police.
On Wednesday, the IDF cordoned off a small area near the West Bank town of Halhul where Kawasme and Abu Aysha are believed to be holed up, Channel 10 reported. 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, in the area where the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found on June 30.
Also on Wednesday, two days after the bodies of the three slain Israeli teens were found, police discovered in the Jerusalem forest the charred corpse of 16-year-old Arab Israeli teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir. The brutal killing of Abu Khdeir, allegedly in a revenge attack by Jewish extremists, sparked violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, both in Israel and in the West Bank.
Avi Issacharoff and Spencer Ho contributed to this report.