Mastermind behind teens’ murder receives 3 life sentences
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Mastermind behind teens’ murder receives 3 life sentences

Hussam Kawasme, 40, ordered to pay bereaved families NIS 250,000 each in compensation

The three kidnapped and murdered  teens, from left to right: Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach (photo credit: Courtesy)
The three kidnapped and murdered teens, from left to right: Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach (photo credit: Courtesy)

The mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 was sentenced on Tuesday to three life terms in prison.

Hussam Kawasme, 40, was also ordered to pay the families of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gil-ad Shaar NIS 250,000 ($63,000) apiece in compensation for their murders.

The sentence was handed down by the Ofer military court, with some of the parents of the victims in attendance.

Avraham Fraenkel, the father of Naftali Fraenkel, spoke at the hearing, imploring the judge to give Kawasme a harsh sentence.

“Unlike a normal murder, if there is such a thing, there was another component here — 18 days passed from the murder until the bodies were found,” Fraenkel said, according to the Walla news website. “Searches, hope, despair — anguish. We all looked for them, and he knew and was silent.”

“I ask your honor for a full and comprehensive punishment, using all the means at your disposal, due to the severity of the case here,” he added.

Kawasme was convicted last week of planning and financing the kidnapping and murders of the three.

Shaar, 16, Fraenkel, 16, and Yifrach, 19, were nabbed from a hitchhiking post in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank south of Jerusalem on June 12 and killed shortly after.

The abduction led to a massive search in the West Bank as well as a crackdown on Hamas before their bodies were found hidden in a shallow grave in a field near Hebron on June 30.

Kawasme also stands accused of trading in war equipment, obstructing justice and harboring wanted fugitives, but has not been tried on those charges yet.

Kawasme previously served six years in an Israeli prison for his involvement in Hamas terror attacks.

Marwan Kawasme (left) and Amer Abu Aysha (right), were behind the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens this summer. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Marwan Kawasme (left) and Amer Abu Aysha (right), were behind the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli teens this summer. (photo credit: Courtesy)

He was arrested on July 11 and admitted to his role in the attack. He also fingered other family members and acquaintances, officials said.

According to the Shin Bet General Security Services, the two men at the heart of planning the attack were Hussam and his brother Mahmoud Kawasme.

The latter, who lives in Gaza, was released in 2011 from a 20-year sentence in an Israeli prison for his role in a 2004 suicide attack in Beersheba and exiled, as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, to the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

The alleged actual perpetrators of the kidnapping and murders, Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha, were both killed during a September arrest attempt in Hebron. Forces descended on the house where the suspects were believed to be hiding and began firing heavily on the home. They were killed after refusing to surrender.

Hussam, whom the Shin Bet had described as playing a “staff officer role” in the attack, asked his brother for, and received, NIS 220,000 ($61,000) in cash in order to fund an attack.

With the money, which was allegedly hand-delivered to Hussam’s mother in envelopes, he bought two rifles and two handguns from Adnan Zaro, 34, of Hebron, and two cars – one for the abduction and one for the escape.

After disposing of the bodies and torching the newly stolen Hyundai used for the kidnapping, the Shin Bet said Marwan Kawasme arrived at Hussam’s house and explained the complications in the plan. The two then allegedly decided to retrieve the bodies and to bury them on a plot of land that Hussam had recently purchased.

On June 30, once the bodies were found by an Israeli search team in a field outside Hebron in late June, Hussam planned to flee to Jordan with forged papers, but was arrested beforehand in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. Security forces destroyed Kawasme’s home in Hebron in August.

Tensions were further ratcheted up after their bodies were found and following the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Kdheir in an apparent revenge attack. The events contributed to the lead up to the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Stuart Winer and Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.

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