SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) – Israeli forces Tuesday killed two Palestinians considered responsible for the abduction and deaths in June of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank that helped trigger weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip, officials said.
According to the Israeli army, suspects Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha were holed up in a building in the West Bank city of Hebron. Israeli forces, including special police and army units, surrounded the two-story house early Tuesday to arrest the suspects, who opened fire and were killed in an ensuing gun battle.
“We understood they intended to fight back and took precautions,” said Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
The three teenagers, Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah, were abducted while hitchhiking from their West Bank school to their homes on June 12. They were killed within hours and their bodies were uncovered after two weeks of a massive military operation in the West Bank, during which Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians.
Israeli intelligence named the two suspects shortly after the kidnapping.
“We’ve been on their track almost since day one” Lerner, who said their exact location was pinpointed in the last week, told reporters. “Terrorism doesn’t pay and this is a huge success. It does not pay to abduct Israelis. At the end of the day, we will get them.”
Speaking in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised intelligence and security forces for the operation. Earlier, he spoke with the parents of the three slain youths. “Nothing can bring back their wonderful, dear boys. But I told them justice had been done,” he told his Cabinet.
“I am glad this is closed,” Rachel Frenkel, one of the mothers, told Israel’s Channel 10. “This will not bring back Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal, but I am not sorry I will not see [the suspects’] smiling faces in court.”
Israel had insisted that the killers were with Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. It said they kidnapped and killed the three teenagers with full guidance and support of the group. After denying any connection to the slayings, Hamas officials eventually conceded that the act was carried out by members of the group, but denied that Hamas had known about it in advance.
Thousands of Palestinians took part in the funerals of the slain men Tuesday afternoon in Hebron.
The developments threatened to scuttle indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo who were invited by Egypt to begin discussing a more permanent cease-fire and arrangements for reconstruction in Gaza, left in ruins after 50 days of fighting halted by an Egyptian-brokered truce nearly a month ago.
The Palestinian delegation condemned the Hebron killing, calling it a “crime” purposely timed to the resumption of the talks. According to Hamas delegate Izzat Rishq, the delegation was en route to Egyptian intelligence headquarters and turned back to the hotel in protest to consider its next move.
“They can consider whatever they want,” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli media. “We will hit and kill anyone who kills our children,” he said.
After consultations, however, the Palestinian delegation decided to stay and submit its agenda for the talks, including demands for rebuilding Gaza’s destroyed airport and seaport.
Israel is prepared to discuss all proposals for rebuilding civilian infrastructure in Gaza, while preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities, and ultimately demilitarizing Gaza, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told diplomats Tuesday. “Only demilitarization can guarantee a durable and sustainable cease-fire between us and the Palestinians,” he said.
Tuesday’s session lasted only a few hours before breaking for upcoming Jewish and Muslim holidays. According to a statement from Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, the parties agreed to continue the truce.