IDF blows off doors at home of Palestinian suspect in kidnapping

Army sources reject reports that troops destroyed house belonging to family of Marwan Kawasme, one of 2 Hamas men sought by security forces

The front doors at the family home of Marwan Kawasme, one of two Hamas terrorists sought by Israeli security forces for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, were blown off Monday night in a controlled explosion, hours after the bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Saar were found.

The house in central Hebron was not destroyed, however, military sources said, rejecting earlier reports that it had been demolished.

Earlier Monday night, Palestinian media reported that the families of the suspected terrorists, Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha were removed from their Hebron homes ahead of possible demolition.

The head of the IDF’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, said that the IDF would continue to do everything necessary to locate the terrorists, who remain at large.

“At this time, thousands of soldiers and commanders are continuing their mission,” he said. “For us, the mission is not over. The troops, together with Shin Bet and police forces, continue to do all that is necessary to locate the kidnappers — terrorists of the Hamas organization. We will not rest until it is complete.”

Following the discovery of the three bodies, IDF troops descended on the home of Kawasme and confiscated his car, while other houses in the area were searched as well. Kawasme’s wife, Abrar, was arrested on Sunday, and released Monday. Omar Abu Aysha, the father of the other suspect, was said to be detained by the IDF on Sunday.

The Israel police raised preparedness among its troops to a level just under its highest alert.

The security cabinet was convened at 9:30 p.m. to discuss the Israeli response to the deaths of the three students.

The bodies of Yifrach, 19, Fraenkel, 16, and Shaar, 16, were found near Halhul, north of Hebron, on Monday afternoon. Israeli security forces, which had been conducting extensive searches in the region, sealed off the area and declared it a closed military zone. Hebron was also sealed off.

IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz was in the Halhul area Monday, overseeing the ongoing operation.

Israeli authorities on Thursday had named the two Hamas members as prime suspects in the kidnapping.

They have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping took place on June 12. The two were allegedly in the car in which the three teenagers were abducted.

Hamas leaders in the Hebron area were reported to have made themselves scarce, anticipating that they would be sought by the security forces. Hamas has not taken responsibility for the kidnapping and killings but has praised it; a Hamas spokesman was quoted warning on Monday night that “any Israeli response will open the gates of hell.”

Hamas officials in Hebron confirmed the two suspects were members of the Islamist group, and said Israeli troops had targeted the men’s homes since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper. The officials said troops had entered the homes several times, conducting intensive searches and confiscating items as evidence.

The teenagers were kidnapped from a hitchhiking post outside the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem, Thursday, June 12.

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