Israeli Teens’ Kidnappers Evaded Army, Hid in Cesspool After Murders

Indictment against captured collaborators reveals details of how kidnapping was planned and how the two main suspects avoided capture.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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On the left: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh. On the right: kidnapped teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah
On the left: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh. On the right: kidnapped teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal YifrahCredit: Reuters
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh, the suspected kidnappers and murderers of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June, managed to change their hiding place undetected five days after the kidnapping, despite the presence of large military forces in the area, according to an indictment presented to a military court last week.

The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service are still searching for the two suspects, some two-and-a-half months after the kidnapping. Their capture is a major goal of the IDF Central Command, both in order to bring them to justice and out of a concern that they will strike again. Others involved in the kidnapping have been apprehended and are standing trial. Those proceedings, in open court, have shed some light on the kidnapping.

Even though it was first thought that the kidnappers were professionals who had left no trace, the investigation shows that they were amateurs who made many mistakes. This only sharpens the puzzle of how they are managing to elude capture, despite the enormous resources invested in their apprehension.

Following the arrest of Hussam Qawasmeh, who organized and funded the kidnapping, security officials learned that the kidnappers had intended to kill the teenagers all along. A plot of land had been purchased and Hussam, together with Abu Aisheh, transferred the bodies there for burial, in Hussam’s car, after the shooting. Marwan, meanwhile, burned the vehicle used to kidnap the abductees.

The men prepared a hiding place before they carried out the kidnapping. Marwan had spoken with someone a week earlier about needing a refuge, saying that the authorities were looking for him, and an old house beside a field in the village of Tufah was prepared in advance. The owner of the house was notified two days beforehand that the hiding place would be needed, and at 5 A.M. after the kidnapping Abu Aisha showed up. Marwan showed up later but had to wait until that evening before going into hiding. Hussam didn’t go into hiding.

Both Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh hid in an unused cesspool, which was covered in earth and furnished with a small breathing pipe. Marwan’s late arrival indicates that he was active after the murder, and thus quicker action by search teams may have led to his early capture.

The two emerged after five days, sleeping unobserved under a tree. Then they disappeared, despite the presence of several IDF battalions and special units in the vicinity. Security forces estimate that they are still in the area, armed and desperate.

After the bodies of the three teenagers were found, Hussam Qawasmeh went into hiding, fearing that he would be betrayed if the two were caught. He went to Jericho in an attempt to flee to Jordan but was apprehended by special police forces.

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