Palestinian Authority (PA) security officials revealed Sunday that a Hamas terrorist expelled to Gaza in the Gilad Shalit deal was in fact behind the abduction and murder of Gilad Sha'ar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16) and Eyal Yifrah (19) on June 12.
The sources told Walla! that Mahmoud Ali Kawasmeh, a known Hamas terrorist, initiated the murder and helped to plan and transfer funds to carry it out.
The horrific murder appears to have largely been a family affair; it was reported last Tuesday that Kawasmeh's brother Hussam was arrested in Jerusalem for planning the attack, which was carried out physically by another Kawasmeh brother, Marwan, along with Amar Abu-Eisha.
According to the PA security sources, Mahmoud in fact initiated the murder, meaning the actual mastermind of the attack may still remain at large in Gaza.
Mahmoud in the past lived in Hevron along with his brothers. After being expelled to Gaza in the Shalit deal, he is thought to have been in touch with Hamas terrorists in Judea and Samaria in Hevron and other cities such as Tulkarm to plan attacks, according to the PA sources.
A well-planned and well-funded murder
The abduction and murder reportedly was planned by Mahmoud with Hussam under the support of Hamas's military branch, the Al-Qassam Brigades, through their branches both in Gaza and abroad.
The Brigades transferred funds via Mahmoud to purchase a car with an Israeli license plate, weapons and hideouts which were arranged in advance, according to the sources. They added that the three Israeli teens were buried on land purchased by the Kawasmeh family long before the attack.
Indeed the Kawasmeh family has extensive terror ties; another brother, Abdullah, was the former leader of the Hevron branch of the Al-Qassam Brigades. Abdullah was killed in a shootout with elite Israeli counter-terror police in 2003, who were hunting him for his involvement in several deadly terrorist attacks.
Israeli security sources reported that Hussam admitted in investigation to having shaven his beard off and obtained a forged passport in an attempt to flee the country to Jordan; Marwan and Abu-Eisha remain at large but security services say they are "confident" the pair will be caught soon.
No direct order from Hamas found yet
Despite the PA security sources' account, Walla! notes that the Israeli security sources still have not accused the Hamas leadership in Gaza of the abduction and murder. Reportedly the sources acknowledge a general order to kidnap Israelis had been given along with funding, but they note evidence of a direct order for the abduction of the three teens has not been found yet.
Yifrah, Sha'ar and Frenkel went missing on June 12. An 18-day search for the three teenagers, accompanied by a crackdown on Hamas in Judea and Samaria, ended in tragedy after their bodies were found in a field close to the Arab village of Halhul near Hevron. They were buried side-by-side in the city of Modi'in.
The three boys are believed to have been murdered very shortly after being kidnapped; one source close to the murder investigation said a recording of a call made by one of the boys as he was being kidnaps provides crucial evidence that the murder had been pre-planned from the very start.
The source claimed the kidnappers used a silenced weapon, indicating their attempt to actually use the gun, and dressed up as religious Jews to lure the victims into their car.