Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found on Monday, realized very quickly that they had been abducted on the night of June 12.
The three teens were waiting at Geva’ot Intersection, west of the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem, soon after 10:15 p.m, looking to catch a ride heading west on Route 367 toward Beit Shemesh and from there to locations in central Israel where each of them lived.
The prevailing assessment within the defense establishment is that the kidnappers, at least at first, only saw one of the hitchhikers, perhaps Yifrach, who did not know Shaar and Fraenkel. Only once the kidnappers’ Hyundai i35 came to a stop did the kidnappers realize that they would be outnumbered by their hostages within the small confines of the car. This may be what changed the nature of the crime from kidnapping to murder, security sources suggested.
Inside the Hyundai, Israel alleges, were Hamas terrorists Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme.
Recognizing, too late, that the car was not an innocent Israeli vehicle, one of the teens called the police at 10:25 p.m. and whispered, “We’ve been kidnapped.” The call was transferred immediately to a senior officer, who continued to ask questions but received no reply. The call lasted for 2:09 minutes and was then cut off. The officer called the number eight more times, but received three busy signals and reached voicemail five times.
The kidnappers, apparently realizing that a call had been made, shot the three teens dead at that point in the backseat of the car, military sources said. Army Radio reported Tuesday that the three were shot during the phone call. It said blood and bullet cases were found in the car, as well as some of the killers’ effects.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday night that they were murdered “in cold blood.”
Early assessments by some regarding the professionalism of the terrorists appear to have been misplaced: the killers seem to have panicked. The three teens did not fulfill the role Hamas sought for them, security officials indicated, to serve as bargaining chips that would free thousands of Palestinians prisoners and promote the Hamas brand throughout the West Bank.
The killers then drove a further 10 minutes or so before switching vehicles. They abandoned the Hyundai i35, a relatively new vehicle, and set it on fire.
They transferred the bodies to the second vehicle, and drove close to the field in the Halhul area where the three corpses were ultimately discovered, bound, partially buried, and in what eyewitnesses said was “in not good condition,” on Monday afternoon. The land where the bodies were found belongs to the Kawasme family, Channel 2 news reported.
Unbeknownst to the killers, the emergency call had not prompted an alert by Israel’s security forces. The senior officer did not pass on the information to her superiors or listen to the recording for further evidence, concluding that it was a prank call. The security forces realized there had been a kidnapping, and began what became an 18-day search operation, only some seven hours later.
Assuming that they were being hunted down right away, the kidnappers quickly abandoned the three bodies, and made their escape.
Israeli security forces pinpointed Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme as prime suspects on June 13, and began a series of searches of the family homes and the questioning and arrests of relatives and other suspects. But the two alleged kidnappers were still at large as of Monday night. Others allegedly involved were also still being hunted.