Hamas in Gaza Funded June Kidnap and Murder of Three Teens, Israel Says

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Two of the Hamas suspects: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh.

The state said Wednesday that Hamas operatives in Gaza funded the June kidnapping and murder of three teens in the West Bank, the event that led up to Israel’s four-week Gaza offensive.

The funding aspect was revealed in a reply to a petition against the demolition of the homes of the three men suspected of the kidnapping and murder.

The state named Hussam Qawasmeh as the leader of the cell; the Shin Bet security service had previously suspected that Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh were the leaders. Last month, the police’s counterterrorism unit arrested Hussam Qawasmeh at the home of relatives in the Shoafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem.

The state says Hussam Qawasmeh confessed during his Shin Bet interrogation that he had received funding for the abduction and murder from Hamas operatives in Gaza. It says one of the security prisoners released in the 2011 exchange for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit may have helped Qawasmeh with the transfer of funds.

After Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah were kidnapped and murdered, Marwan Qawasmeh met with Hussam, the state says. They allegedly drove to a plot of land in the Halhul area that Hussam had bought and buried the teenagers there.

The Shin Bet says Hussam also helped Abu Aisheh and Marwan Qawasmeh hide; the two men are still at large. According to the state, Hussam planned to flee to Jordan with the help of his family and forged documents.

On Thursday, the High Court of Justice is to hear a petition submitted by the suspects’ families against the military’s decision to demolish their homes.

According to a spokesman for the State Prosecutor’s Office, amid “the severe deterioration in the security situation” in the West Bank after the June 12 kidnapping and murder, the demolition is “essential to deter other terrorists from perpetrating other severe terror attacks.”

According to the official, the State Prosecutor’s Office has “clear and unequivocal administrative evidence showing the degree of near certainty that Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh are the ones who kidnapped and murdered the three teenagers.” Those two men and Hussam Qawasmeh have a record of involvement in terror acts, he added.

The state noted that Marwan Qawasmeh and Abu Aisheh had been in hiding since June 12.

In early July, troops destroyed the home of the family of Ziad Awad in the southern West Bank. Awad is suspected in the killing of a senior police official on Passover eve.

The demolition of Awad’s home marked a resumption of home demolitions as a punishment for terror activity. In 2005, an a military committee had declared that home demolitions did more harm than good.

Last month, the High Court turned down a petition by Awad’s family.

“In principle, an authority may change its policy, even if that policy has been in place for close to a decade,” Justice Miriam Naor wrote. “In particular, it may do so when circumstances change. At the beginning of this ruling we wrote about the extreme circumstances prevailing recently in Judea and Samaria” – the West Bank.

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