Marwan Kawasmeh and Amer Abu Eisha of Hevron, who abducted and murdered three yeshiva boys Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar, Naftali Frenkel in June, were located and killed in exchange of gunfire early Tuesday morning.
The operation was carried out by the Yamam, a special unit of the Border Police, and the IDF, in Hevron. An attempt was made to arrest the suspects but an exchange of fire developed in which they were killed.
The operation was made possible by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), which located the murderers' hideout. In the last few days, several Hamas suspects were arrested and questioned on the assumption that they were assisting the fugitives.
"We have been pursuing these two since the abduction,” said Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadai. “Last night the investigation ripened as regards their location and we have been surrounding the place where they were hiding since 1:00 a.m. We killed them and there are arrests of several other collaborators.”
"We began areesting suspects and at the same time we applied [IDF] 'pressure cooker' protocol on the house. It is a big house and they hid out in a secret arms store on the basement floor. The floor is not visible from the outside. At one stage they went outside and opened fire. One was shot and the other fell inside, into a hole.”
"There was use of weapons, like hand grenades and the deployment of explosives that were prepared ahead of time,” he added. “We know that they have been staying in this location quite a lot in the last few days. We know for certain that they were not here the whole time. They had weapons like M-16s, a Kalachnikov and handguns, too.”
Kawasmeh's close relative Hussam was arrested in Jerusalem in August for planning the attack, which was carried out physically by Marwan, along with Amer Abu-Eisha.
The abduction and murder reportedly was planned by a third Kawasmeh, Mahmoud, along 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 security sources. They added that the three Israeli teens were buried on land purchased by the Kawasmeh family long before the attack. Hussam admitted in investigation to having shaven his beard off and obtained a forged passport in an attempt to flee the country to Jordan.
After going missing on June 12, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and 16-year-old classmates Gilad Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel, were declared kidnapped the next day.
Suspicion immediately fell on Hamas after intelligence pointed towards the involvement of Kawasmeh and Abu-Eisha, whose names were publicized two weeks later.
An 18-day search for the three teenagers ensued, accompanied by a crackdown on Hamas in Judea and Samaria, but the search ended in tragedy after their bodies were found in 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.