Suspects in Kidnap of West Bank Teens Killed in IDF Firefight

Hamas confirms both Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha killed in shootout at West Bank hideout; Netanyahu praises Shin Bet and IDF for 'succeeding' in targeting the kidnappers.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Two Palestinians suspected of kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June were hit during a firefight with Israeli forces in Hebron overnight on Tuesday.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner said Tuesday morning that both suspects were killed in the shootout; Hamas later confirmed this.

The Shin Bet said that the two suspects, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, were hiding in a house in the West Bank. Israeli forces approached the house with an excavator vehicle and fired a rocket at the house, according to Palestinian reports.

Three additional people suspected of involvement in the kidnapping, all of them members of the Qawasmeh family, were arrested during the operation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the operation that the defense establishment had achieved its goal of targeting the kidnappers. "We said from the start that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping and murder. As we gathered proof, Hamas admitted it was behind the attack," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"I would like to praise the excellent work of the Shin Bet intelligence, the IDF and Special Forces fighters. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I salute you on the important and accurate operation," he said.

"We will continue to fight terror everywhere. I said in Hebron, in the days following the murder, 'We will pursue the enemy and we will not rest until completion.' And this morning, we succeeded."

Qawasmeh and Abu Aisha, both affiliated with Hamas, have been sought after by the Israeli defense establishment for three months, since the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, also 16, on June 12 near Gush Etzion in the West Bank.

In early September, Hussam Qawasmeh, Marwan's uncle, was charged in Ofer military court with organizing and funding the kidnapping, and arranging a hideout for the two kidnappers after the murder in a Hebron-area mosque.

According to the charge sheet, Hussam organized the attack with the help of his brother, Mahmoud, who was freed in the deal to release Gilad Shalit and subsequently expelled to Gaza.

Qawasmeh and Abu Aisha 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.

Both hid in an unused cesspool, which was covered in earth and furnished with a small breathing pipe, following the murder.

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.

The IDF demolished the homes of the suspects in August.

The two Hamas suspects: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amar Abu Aisha.

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