Daily Israel Report

As Chief Suspect Indicted, New Details Emerge in Teens' Murder

As mastermind of kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens is indicted, security forces release new details of the attack.
By Kobi Finkler
First Publish: 9/4/2014, 12:56 PM

Murdered (L to R): Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar, Naftali Frenkel
Murdered (L to R): Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar, Naftali Frenkel
courtesy of the families

An indictment was submitted today (Thursday) against the mastermind of the kidnap and murder of Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel, as more details emerge about the circumstances of their abduction.

With the completion of the interrogation of the suspects, several new pieces of information have been released for publication.

One month after the abduction, on July 11, a joint arrest operation between the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police nabbed Hussam Hassan Kawasmeh, who owned the plot of land in which the murdered teens' bodies were discovered, after they were murdered and hastily buried there by their kidnappers: Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Eishah - who are both still on the run.

Kawasmeh confessed his role in the kidnapping under Shin Bet interrogation, and implicated a number of other accomplices to the crime.

The manhunt for Kawasmeh - whose extended family figures prominently within the Hamas movement and its stronghold of Hevron - began as soon as the bodies were discovered. Realizing he would be a suspect, he prepared to flee to Jordan with the help of a fake passport and the support of several relatives in Hevron - Hashem Kawasmeh, Jameel Kawasmeh and Hassan Kawasmeh.

But his plans to escape were foiled after intelligence services got wind of them, and Kawasmeh was arrested in the Shuafat neighborhood of Jerusalem. He had apparently shaved his beard off as part of efforts to conceal his identity, in preparation for his escape across the border.

Kawasmeh had previous spent time in an Israeli prison for links to another terror cell which carried out several bombing attacks. A significant number of his family members have also spent time behind bars or even been killed in clashes with security forces, including his brother Hussein Kawasmeh, who is currently serving a life sentence for a 2011 bombing attack in central Jerusalem which killed a British tourist and wounded dozens of others.

Another family member, the brother of kidnapper Marwan Kawasmeh, was Abdullah al-Qawasmeh. Abdullah was the leader of the Hevron branch of Hamas's "military wing", the Ezzadine al-Qassam Brigades. He was killed in a shootout with elite Israeli counter-terrorism police in 2003, who were hunting him for his involvement in several deadly terrorist attacks.

Hussam's interrogation, as well as those of a number of other arrested suspects, revealed that he had played a fundamental part in the kidnapping, and served as its mastermind and overall coordinator of the entire terrorist "operation". In that capacity, he secured some 200,000 shekels from his Gaza-based brother and Hamas operative Mahmoud to fund the attack.

The money was used, among other things, to purchase the car used in the abductions, which was later found burned out, near Hevron, together with spent bullet casings and traces of blood.

The money was also used to buy weapons - two pistols and two assault rifles - which were given to Marwan Kawasmeh prior to the attack. Hussam received those weapons from another Hamas terrorist in Hevron, Adnan Mohammed Azzat Zaro.

Also under interrogation, it was revealed that immediately after the murders Marwan went to Hussam, who helped him to take the bodies to a field the latter had purchased several month before in preparation for the killings. After burying the bodies in a shallow grave, he then helped Marwan and Amar Abu-Eisha to find a place to hide.

Security forces also extracted the names of several other terrorists involved in the abduction and murder, including two brothers. One of them, 50-year-old Hevron resident Arafat Ibrahim Mohammed Kawasmeh, admitted after his arrest to helping hide the suspects. The second - 64-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim Mohammed Kawasmeh - confessed that Marwan had turned to him prior to the attack to secure him safe passage in advance to Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, and that he had referred him to his brother Arafat.

With the conclusion of the interrogation process, the suspects cases have been transferred to the Judea and Samaria prosecutor, who will be pressing charges.