The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has spent the past 18 days piecing together a moment-by-moment account of what happened to the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered by two Hamas men near Hebron last month.
The security services believe that Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah were murdered soon after being kidnapped, as they sat in the car they had entered to hitch a ride.
Although other possibilities are being considered, according to this view, a phone call by one of the youths to the police to try to report the kidnapping immediately triggered the murders.
The terrorists then headed toward Halhoul, north of Hebron, and buried the boys in a field 3 kilometers west of the town.
The killers quickly buried them before going into hiding, most likely within the Hebron region.
Security sources say this is one of a number of scenarios being examined. Until the kidnappers are captured, this evaluation cannot be confirmed.
The Shin Bet launched a painstaking and complex process to assemble an intelligence puzzle that eventually led to the location of the corpses. Information was gathered from a variety of sources, including Shin Bet regional coordinators, signal intelligence, desk analysts and information obtained by questioning arrested security suspects.
This led the domestic intelligence agency to gradually narrow the search area for the bodies, until it honed in on the area near Halhoul.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the West Bank, a Palestinian threw a grenade at soldiers during an IDF raid in Jenin overnight between Monday and Tuesday. Soldiers killed him. The IDF arrested three suspects in Jenin and Hebron in overnight raids.
In the coming days, the army will gradually reduce its forces in the West Bank, as many of those who were searching for the youths go home and it shifts its focus to the hunt for the Hamas kidnappers, Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.
The IDF has the homes of the kidnappers surrounded and is searching them centimeter by centimeter to ensure that no clues were missed earlier. The army is waiting for a cabinet decision on whether to destroy the homes. Abu Aysha‘s home was damaged during a raid, and there had been incorrect reports that security forces had destroyed it.
Security forces continue to question family members of the kidnappers.
Since the beginning of the operation launched against Hamas in the West Bank, 422 terrorist suspects have been arrested, including 12 Hamas leaders and 322 Hamas members. Those arrested include 56 former Hamas prisoners released in the 2011 Gilad Schalit exchange.
The IDF has targeted Hamas’s political, terrorist and civilian structures in hundreds of raids, and shut down 63 Hamas Da’wa outreach centers that are designed to entrench the organization among the Palestinian population and to recruit terrorists, as well as to serve as a terrorist financing channel.
The army has seized NIS 1,200,000 from Hamas centers during the operation. It searched 2,218 homes, and uncovered dozens of caves, tunnels and underground facilities used by Hamas, seizing weapons in the process.
The IDF is focusing its efforts on locating the kidnappers, and sources have expressed hope that they will be found in the near future.