Another Hamas suspect has been arrested in connection with the June 12 abduction and murder of three Israeli teens in Gush Etzion. Hebron resident Fares Qawasmeh, a 31-year-old doctor, is accused of being involved in planning the murder.
Qawasmeh was taken into custody by Palestinian Authority security forces, according to a report broadcast Tuesday on Israel’s Channel 10 television news.
The report was later confirmed in a post on the Twitter social networking site by Qatar-based senior Hamas official Hussam Badran. “The only crime Qawasmeh committed was to speak for Hamas at the victory celebrations for Gaza after the fighting against Israel,” Badran tweeted.
A number of local Arab residents aided the Qawasmeh family in carrying out the plot by hiding and sheltering the fugitives. Among them was Wael Qarameh, indicted by Israeli authorities in late August on charges of harboring a fugitive – Hebron resident Hussam Qawasmeh, who was indicted last week on multiple charges for masterminding the abduction and murder.
Qawasmeh, a Hebron resident was arrested on July 11 in a joint Shin Bet – IDF sting operation in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. He had fled his home with the aid of friends and relatives in hopes of trying to make his way to Jordan on the strength of a false ID. Shuafat is the same Arab neighborhood where massive violence tore apart three Jerusalem Light Rail stations following the murder of a young Arab teen, the day after the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found.
Hussam Qawasmeh confessed under interrogation to having masterminded the plot to kidnap and murder the teens, and to having obtained financing for the operation from Hamas in Gaza. He admitted to having obtained false identity papers and fleeing as soon as the bodies of the three murder victims were unearthed from their hurriedly dug, shallow stony graves in the field he purchased in Halhul, along Highway 60 north of Hebron.
Marwan Qawasmeh – his kinsman – and Amar Abu Aisha, both also residents of Hebron, are suspected of being the ones to having joyfully carried out those plans. The actual gunshots that murdered the boys and the celebrations of their attackers after the murders in the getaway car were heard on a recording made on a police hotline via a call from one of the boys as he desperately sought rescue. The two murderers, meanwhile, remain at large.
Security sources revealed after last week’s indictment that Hussam Qawasmeh received a total of approximately NIS 200,000 ($61,500) from his brother in Gaza, Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Ali to pay for the operation. The costs included two vehicles – the abduction car and the getaway car – as well as four firearms and other expenses. Mahmoud was one of more than 1,000 Arab inmates freed in an October 2011 prisoner swap deal with Israel in exchange for the return of former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas and allied terrorists in 2006.