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Israel arrests Palestinian suspected of being involved in murder of three Israeli teens

August 06, 2014, 14:21 UTC+3 TEL AVIV
The Israeli army for almost three weeks conducted a large-scale operation in the West Bank, searching for the kidnappers of the teens
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© EPA/ABIR SULTAN

TEL AVIV, August 06. /ITAR-TASS/. Israeli security agencies have arrested a person suspected of organising the kidnapping and murder of three students of the Jewish religious school in Hebron in the West Bank on June 12, Israeli TV reported on Wednesday.

The suspect, 40-year-old Hussam Kawasme, was arrested in the Anata village in the West Bank on July 11, the TV said after the court order, banning the disclosure of this information, was cancelled overnight. The court documents say that Kawasme confessed he had planned the kidnapping of the three Israelis. He admitted, in particular, that he had received funds for the crime from HAMAS representatives in Gaza, as well as bought weapons that he handed over to the kidnappers. Kawasme also confessed that he had helped to bury the bodies of the three Israelis on a land plot he had bought several months before the kidnapping.

On June 26, Israel Security Agency (Shabak) made public the names and photos of two HAMAS activists, suspected of kidnapping of the three Israeli teens. “Already during the first 24 hours after the kidnapping of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, Shabak found out that it was done by HAMAS, and the organisers of the attack were two activists from the group’s activists in Hebron - Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha,” the Israeli army said then. Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha are still at large.

The Israeli army for almost three weeks conducted a large-scale operation in the West Bank, searching for the kidnappers of the teens. During this period, it arrested about 500 Palestinians, three-thirds of which were HAMAS activists, as well as more than 10 Palestinian parliamentarians. The soldiers searched 2,800 buildings, including offices of TV companies and newspapers. The army also detained 57 Palestinians, released from Israeli prisons in 2011 in exchange for the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Three students of the Kfar Etzion religious school went missing in the evening of June 12, catching a ride to return home after classes. Two of them were 16, and the third - 19 years old. The bodies of the teenagers were found in a search operation on June 30.

On July 30, the next day after the bodies were found, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was ready to expand the operation against HAMAS in the West Bank and in Gaza. “HAMAS is responsible for this, and it will pay for this,” the prime minister said then. “We will undermine the positions of HAMAS in the West Bank and stop rockets from Gaza, for which we are ready to expand the operation as necessary,” the Israeli Cabinet head said on July 1.

Already in a week - on July 8, Israel launched the military operation Protective Edge in Gaza. At present, a truce is in effect in Gaza during which the sides with Egypt’s mediation are engaged in negotiations in Cairo on a permanent ceasefire agreement. Israel pulled its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and started a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas mediated by Egypt as a first step towards negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old war.

Minutes before the truce began at 8 a.m. local time, Hamas launched a salvo of rockets, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres.” Israel’s anti-missile system shot down one rocket over Jerusalem, police said. Another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. There were no casualties.

More than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed and 9,000 injured during 29 days of the Protective Edge operation in Gaza. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and officers have been killed in hostilities in Gaza. Three civilians were killed in the Jewish State’s territory in rocket attacks. Since July 8, Palestinian radicals in Gaza have fired about 3,300 rockets on Israel. The Israeli army during the 29-day operation has hit 4,800 targets in Gaza and destroyed 32 tunnels.

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