Cleared for publication: Hebron resident Hussam Qawasme was apparently paid NIS 220,000 – $61,500 – for the June 12 abduction and murder of three Israeli teens by Hamas terrorists in Gush Etzion.
Qawasme was arrested July 11 in connection with the attack, which he is credited with helping to mastermind. He reportedly received the funds for the job from his brother, a convicted Hamas official in Gaza.
According to information released Thursday by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) it was Qawasme who hid the bodies of 19 year old Eyal Yifrah, 16 year old Naftali Frenkel and 16 year old Gilad Sha’ar, kidnapped and murdered on June 12. He had purchased the field where the bodies were stashed in shallow graves along Highway 60 in the town of Halhul, halfway between Hebron and Gush Etzion.
“In an intelligence operation launched by the Shin Bet, Hussam Qawasme was tracked down and arrested in a hideout in the Shuafat refugee camp,” the Shin Bet stated.
Hussam Qawasme was given up by another arrested accomplice who had hidden him and was also recently indicted. Hussam himself was incarcerated in Israel from 1995 to 2002. He was convicted on charges of involvement in Hamas terrorist activities, including participating in a cell that carried out bombing attacks.
“He is the son of a family whose sons have been involved in severe terror attacks on behalf of Hamas,” the Shin Bet added.
The Hamas operative planned to flee to Jordan after stashing the bodies of the three teens but instead was caught and arrested, according the a statement released Thursday by the Shin Bet following Qawasme’s indictment in the IDF military court.
Hussam Qawasme is described in court papers as a ‘command level Hamas operative.’
His brother in Gaza – who allegedly bankrolled the operation – was freed by Israel as part of the prisoner exchange deal that secured the Oct. 18, 2011 return of former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from five years of captivity by Hamas.
The money was transferred from Gaza to Qawasme in Hebron via cash-stuffed envelopes carried by Hussam’s mother and another, unnamed woman, the indictment alleged. Among the purchases were a vehicle with which to carry out the attack and four guns.
The two kidnapper-killers, relative Marwan Qawasme and Amer Abu Aisha are still at large.
But under interrogation, Hussam Qawasme, 40, named other Hebron family members who had planned to help him escape to Jordan with a fake ID after the attack. Hisham Qawasme, 35; Jamil Qawasme, 28; and Hamas member Hassan Qawasme, 45, are all in Israeli custody.