Israeli arrest in abduction of 3 youths made public

Bloodshed set off most recent conflict

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JERUSALEM — Israel arrested a Palestinian last month accused of being the prime mover in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June, it emerged from court papers Tuesday. The abduction set off the most recent conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The suspect, Hussam Qawasmeh, 40, from the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested July 11 in connection with the killing of the three Israelis — Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach — who were reported missing June 12 and discovered dead a couple of weeks later.

According to the court documents, Mr. Qawasmeh told police during his interrogation that he had helped organize the kidnappings and had gotten money for the task from Hamas. He also reportedly admitted to having bought weapons and given them to the two other men who are suspected of having carried out the attack, and who are still at large. And Mr. Qawasmeh is said to have admitted to helping bury the teenagers in a plot of land he bought a few months before.

The fate of the three teenagers, who attended yeshivas in West Bank settlements, seized the nation. After their bodies were found, the suspects’ reported connection to Hamas was used to justify Israel’s crackdown on the group in the West Bank, with the arrests of scores of people, including the re-arrests of some men who had been let go in an earlier deal for the release of a captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit.

The case also prompted the kidnapping of a Palestinian teenager, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, who was beaten and burned to death hours after the funerals of the Israeli teenagers. Three Israelis have been indicted in that case.

The associated crimes set off a cycle of violence that led to weeks of conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and there has been criticism in Israel and abroad that the Israeli government exaggerated the involvement of Hamas in the original kidnapping and murder.

Mr. Qawasmeh’s arrest was made public Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and the two other suspects — Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, also from Hebron — should be destroyed as a punitive measure. The Israeli Supreme Court had blocked the demolition orders and sought further justification from the state.

israel - Middle East - Palestinian territories - Palestinian territories government - West Bank - Gaza Strip - Hamas - Hebron - Gilad Shalit


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