Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations fiercely denounced the Palestinian UN envoy on Tuesday for “legitimizing terrorism.” The strong statement by Ron Prosor came after the PA ambassador penned a letter to the UN secretary-general decrying Israel’s September 23 killing of Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha — the two men Israel believes were behind the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers — as a violation of international law.
In a letter to Ban Ki-moon on October 2, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour detailed Israeli actions “in violation of international law,” and listed as an example the Hebron “assassination” of the two Hebron-based operatives “alleging that the two men were involved in the killing of the three Israeli settlers in June.”
The reference to Kawasme and Abu Aysha made no mention of the young age of the Israeli victims and the circumstances of their deaths, or of the two operatives’ ties to Hamas. The case was one of several alleged violations mentioned in the letter. Other examples included the arrests of Palestinian fishermen in Gaza, and the deaths of two Gazans when a shell dropped during the summer conflict exploded in the coastal enclave in late September, weeks after the campaign ended.
In response, Prosor took issue with the classification of the deaths of the two as an “assassination,” and decried the “slanderous accusation” and “selective description of events.”
“The Palestinian representative has once again obscured the facts by intentionally trying to portray two murderous terrorists as innocent bystanders. Surprise, surprise — his letter mysteriously omits a number of critical facts, namely: the individuals in question were Hamas terrorists; they were responsible for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha-ar and Naftali Frenkel; and, their act of terror was condemned by the Security Council,” Prosor wrote.
The UN envoy said Mansour’s letter “erodes his credibility and legitimizes terrorism. It is time for the Palestinian Authority to take constructive steps rather than whitewashing the actions of murderers,” he added.
On September 23, Israeli forces closed in on the house where the two operatives were hiding, Prosor maintained, in an effort to “apprehend” them. As the soldiers neared the site, “Kawasme and Abu Aysha opened fire against them. Israel’s security forces returned fire and during the clash, the suspects were killed.”
Prosor’s account was in some contradiction to IDF Spokesman Peter Lerner’s description of the incident, who said the army was first to fire. “We opened fire, they returned fire and they were killed in the exchange,” Lerner told Reuters on September 23.
“The United Nations will need to open a costume shop to house all the dressed up stories penned by the Palestinian representative to conceal the truth,” Prosor wrote.
“Furthermore, one has to wonder why the Palestinian representative neglects to mention Hamas’s role in the attack. Hamas certainly hasn’t been shy about taking responsibility,” Prosor added, and further criticized the PA for not independently investigating the June 12 murder.
In the immediate aftermath of the deaths of Kawasme and Abu Aysha, Hamas criticized the Palestinian Authority, saying their security cooperation with Israel enabled the IDF to target and kill the two Hamas operatives.
Salah Bardawil said in a statement published on Hamas’s official website that “the success of the Israeli occupation in assassinating the perpetrators of the Hebron operation early Tuesday morning was due to the security cooperation in the occupied West Bank.”
Kawasme and Abu Aysha, both of whom belonged to families with deep ties to Hamas, were responsible for the abduction and killing of Naftali Fraenkel, 16; Gil-ad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19, on June 12, according to Israel. The three yeshiva students were nabbed while waiting at a West Bank bus stop and hitchhiking post.
One of the teens managed to make a furtive call to police for help and, in a recording of the call, gunshots could be heard and the sound of cheering from the kidnappers before the connection was abruptly ended.
Their abduction set off a search operation in the West Bank as well as a crackdown on the Hamas organization, which Israel accused of being behind the attack. The bodies of the three teens were found in a shallow grave near Hebron on June 30.
The abduction and killing sparked a summer of rising tensions that climaxed with Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip.
Times of Israel staff and Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.