Israel Identifies Gaza Man Who Allegedly Funded Kidnap of Three Teens

Defense sources say Mahmoud Qawasmeh is the third brother from the same family suspected in the kidnapping and murder funded by Hamas.

Reuters

The Gaza liaison for the cell suspected of kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teens in the West Bank was Mahmoud Qawasmeh, exiled to the Strip after the 2011 prisoner exchange that freed captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

According to Israeli defense sources, Mahmoud Qawasmeh was responsible for transferring money from Gaza to the West Bank to fund the June 12 kidnapping of Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, whose bodies were found in the Halhul area on June 30. Qawasmeh was doing a 20-year sentence when he was released in 2011.

The website Walla first reported on the link between Qawasmeh and the suspected leader of the cell, his brother Hussam. It said Mahmoud was in contact with activists in Hebron and other West Bank cities such as Tul Karm. Defense officials believe that Hussam, who was arrested by Israeli counterterrorism police in July, had been in contact with other mililtants in Gaza as well.

In addition to Hussam and Marwan Qawasmeh, the third man suspected of belonging to the West Bank cell is Amer Abu Aisheh. The state says Hussam confessed during an interrogation by the Shin Bet security service that he had received funding for the abduction from Hamas operatives in Gaza.

Marwan Qawasmeh and Abu Aisheh, both of Hebron, allegedly kidnapped and murdered the three teens; they have both done jail time in Israel. Hussam allegedly helped his brother and Abu Aisheh find a place to bury the bodies and hide from the Israelis.

Marwan Qawasmeh and Abu Aisheh are still at large. Hussam, who hid in the home of relatives, was arrested on July 11 in East Jerusalem before he could flee to Jordan with false papers, the Shin Bet says.

Palestinian sources say the information about the absence of Marwan Qawasmeh and Abu Aisheh was obtained from the Palestinian security services. Their wives said they had not met with their husbands since the eve of the kidnapping and were unaware of their plans.