[Times of Israel] Israeli authorities on Thursday named two West Bank Palestinians as prime suspects in the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank two weeks ago.
The two alleged abductors, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, are both known Hamas members. They have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping took place on the night of June 12 and are still at large. Israeli security forces have been engaged in a massive operation to find the abducted youths.
The identities of the suspected kidnappers, who attended prayer services regularly at the same mosque, have been known to Israel since soon after the kidnapping, but were kept secret as the search operation continued over the past two weeks. They are alleged to have been in the car in which Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel were abducted from a hitchhiking post near the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Eztion Bloc south of Jerusalem, Israeli officials said. Other members of their Hamas group have been arrested, the officials added.
Abu Aysha, a 32-year-old locksmith, was last seen at a family gathering only hours before the kidnapping, according to his father Omar, who spoke to The Times of Israel in Hebron several days ago. Abu Aysha’s father, Omar, who has spent time in an Israeli prisons for ties with Hamas, said that his son left the family gathering abruptly without offering any details as to his destination.
Abu Aysha’s brother Zayd, also a member of Hamas, was killed in November 2005 during a clash with IDF soldiers in Hebron. Abu-Aysha’s mother told The Times of Israel that unlike Zayd, Abu-Aysha was a family man who was deeply involved in the lives of his wife and three children. She said he had worked in Jerusalem as well as in Azaria, east of the city. She added that she too last saw Abu-Aysha on Thursday, June 12, before the abduction, and said she did not notice anything unusual in his behavior.
However, Abu-Aysha’s mother added, if her son did take part in the kidnapping, she was proud of him and hoped he would continue to evade capture, both by Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces.
The three kidnapped Israeli teens, from L-R: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16. (photo credit: courtesy)
The second suspect, Kawasme, a 29-year-old barber who used to cut Abu-Aysha’s kids’ hair, was detained by the Palestinian Authority and by Israel in the past. His family is known to be affiliated with Hamas. His uncle Abdullah Kawasme was the commander of the organization’s military wing in Hebron and was killed in a battle with SWAT officers in November 2003.