Israel convicts Hamas militant for killing Jewish teens

Jerusalem, Jan 1: An Israeli military tribunal on Wednesday convicted Hussam Hassan Kawasme, a Hamas operative, of masterminding the abduction and murder of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank in June.

Kawasme was arrested early in July on suspicion of aiding and abetting the killers. During interrogation, he confessed to planning and financing the attack, and was indicted in September, Xinhua reported.

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Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aisha, the militants who kidnapped the 16-year-old teens from a hitchhiking stop on the night of June 12 and shot them dead moments later, were killed in a shootout with an Israeli SWAT unit near Hebron that same month.

The teens' bodies were discovered in shallow graves in a field near Hebron a few weeks after they had gone missing, prompting the revenge killing of a Palestinian teen from east Jerusalem by Jewish extremists and months-long rioting in the city's Arab neighbourhoods.

Israel launched a massive crackdown on Hamas operatives and infrastructure in the West Bank during the searches for the kidnapped teens, which ultimately lead to a 50-day war between Israel and the Islamist group in Gaza this past summer that claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, and 73 Israelis, six of them civilians.

Hussam Kawasme previously served a seven-year prison term in Israel for his involvement in Hamas operations, including membership in a cell that carried out bombing attacks against Israeli targets.

His brother, Hassin Kawasme, is serving a life sentence for a 2011 bomb attack in Jerusalem that killed a Scottish tourist and injured dozens.

Another brother, Mahmoud Kawasme, served a 20-year prison term for a twin suicide bombing aboard Israeli buses in 2004 which killed 16 civilians and wounded more than 100 others. He won an early release as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas and was expelled to the Gaza Strip.

Israel's domestic security agency said that Mahmoud Kawasme transferred the funds for the June attack.


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