Israel has arrested eight Palestinians for the abduction and killing of three Jewish teenagers in June and charged one with organising the crime, but there is no proof Hamas ordered it and three suspects remain at large, officials said on Thursday.
A prime suspect in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank has been charged with masterminding and financing the crime, Israeli security officials said.
Israel's internal security service Shin Bet accused Hossam Qawasmeh, who was arrested on July 11, of organising the June 12 kidnapping and spending some 220,000 shekels ($61,300, 47,200 euros) on weapons and cars used in the crime.
According to the charge sheet seen by AFP, Qawasmeh was charged in a military court for "transferring enemy funds", carrying out services for an illegal organisation (Hamas) and "deliberately causing the death" of the three Israelis.
The indictment noted that Qawasmeh had asked and obtained the money from his brother Mahmud, "a Hamas operative who had been expelled to Gaza".
"As far as we are concerned, the cell that carried out this terrorist attack has almost been cracked," a Shin Bet official told Reuters. But he said it was too early to rule out a command role by more senior Hamas figures.
After initially denying involvement in the deaths of Jewish seminary students Eyal Yifrach, 19, and 16-year-olds Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, Hamas last month acknowledged responsibility.
But Khaled Meshaal, the group's exiled leader, said Hamas members had struck without informing the top echelon in advance.
"Our interrogations are not over yet, and three of those who were involved are not in our custody," the official said, referring to the alleged source of Hamas funds in Gaza and the two alleged kidnappers, Amar Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme.
The boys were shot almost immediately after their abduction, and their bodies were discovered on June 30 near to where they were snatched.
The official said the Shin Bet believed Aysha and Kawasme, posing as Israeli motorists, planned to take two live captives, but were surprised when the three youths got into their car at a hitch-hiking station in the West Bank. That raised the possibility that the kidnappers then panicked and opened fire.
The FBI, which helped the Israeli probe because Fraenkel also held US citizenship, assessed in July that the captors intended to kill the three from the outset, using a silenced pistol to shoot them repeatedly in the car.
Israel rounded up hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank in a mass arrest operation, prompting an uptick in rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is based, and setting the stage for an Israeli operation in Gaza.
The Gaza war, which ended on August 26 after 50 days of fighting, killed 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians on the Israeli side, including a Thai migrant worker.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-09-04