The June kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens by Hamas led to full-blown military conflict, but Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers killed those responsible in a raid Tuesday. The two prime suspects were killed in a shootout with commandos in the city of Hebron, on the West Bank.
The two Hamas members, Amer Abu Aisha and Marwan Qawasmeh, were the focus of a massive manhunt after the bodies of three Israeli teens – one with dual American and Israeli citizenship – were found June 30 in a field north of Hebron; some 12 miles from where they were abducted. Their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave which had been covered by rocks. The two Hamas members, who went missing after the abduction, were quickly identified as suspects. Hamas denied responsibility but a leader in the organization later admitted culpability.
The murders sparked widespread outrage in Israel and the Israeli Defense Force was mobilized in a massive manhunt. More than 2,000 homes were searched and numerous illegal structures destroyed. The operation – known as “Brothers Keeper” – sparked an open conflict between Israeli and Hamas forces.
It was later revealed that Israeli police bungled the handling of a distress call from one of the teens, shortly after the kidnap; Police received the call on June 12 at approximately 10:25pm. A voice said “we’ve been kidnapped” and the line went dead shortly afterwards. The officer to whom the call had been transferred decided it was a prank and took no further action. It is believed that the three teens were shot when their captors discovered that the call had been made.
On Tuesday, soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force surrounded a two-story building in Hebron and demanded that the two Hamas members surrender. When they refused, a rocket was fired into the building and the wanted men began shooting. According to a report in the New York Daily News, one of the men was shot dead and another was killed by grenades after he retreated back into the building.
Hebron Governor, Kamel Hmeid, described Tuesday’s killings as “premeditated murder.” and went on to say that the Israelis had no interest in apprehending the two suspected kidnappers, but had been intent upon killing them. A spokesman for the IDF, Peter Learner, said of the raid “The intelligence indicated that their intention was to fight back and we took the necessary precautions in order to address that threat.”
More than 2000 Palestinians, as well as 72 Israelis, were killed in the conflict sparked by the kidnappings. Israel’s military operation drew international condemnation. Meanwhile, Hamas once again fired a barrage of rockets into Israel. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – who has consistently defended his country’s right to take all necessary defensive measures against Hamas, stated that “Anyone who thinks that they can achieve anything by using terrorism against us will continue to be mistaken.”
The murdered teens – one of who had family in the United States, were buried next to each other Tuesday in the city of Modiin, which is situated halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
By Graham J Noble