Kidnapped Israeli teens.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A three-judge panel of the Judea Military Court on Tuesday sentenced the ringleader behind the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers near Hebron last June to three life sentences.
Hussam Hassan Kawasme was convicted last week based on his confession of planning and financing the attack, including receiving NIS 200,000 from Hamas in the Gaza Strip, purchasing and providing weapons for the other terrorists, hiding the bodies and destroying evidence.
Kawasme “did not see the boys as human and killed them because they were Jews,” the IDF prosecutor, a lieutenant, said during the sentencing.
He added that Kawasme had buried the three boys in an unmarked grave “with no eulogy and no kaddish [mourners’ prayer].”
The defendant’s lawyer, Khaled Araj, said he would not appeal, though he implied that issues external to the case were at play.
On June 12, Hamas members kidnapped Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, as they waited for a ride outside the Alon Shvut settlement in Judea.
The Shin Bet named the killers as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aisha. The two men were killed in a shootout with the IDF near Hebron on September 23.
Avraham Fraenkel, the father of victim Naftali Fraenkel, spoke at the hearing, describing his 16-year-old son as a good student who had had many interests, including music, and who had helped his siblings.
The crime was “more than just a criminal murder,” Avraham Fraenkel said.
Kawasme buried the three boys, and nobody knew their fate for 18 days, Fraenkel continued, stating that the defendant deserved to be punished in accordance with the “full severity of the law.”
Kawasme appeared unmoved through much of the hearing, though he seemed to pay more attention when Fraenkel entered the room and spoke.
A large number of Kawasme’s family members and supporters, as well as media, were in attendance.
His lawyer blamed much of the incident on the overall Israeli-Arab conflict, calling on the leaders of the two peoples to resolve the seemingly unending dispute.
Kawasme did not speak at the hearing.
He was also ordered to pay NIS 250,000 to each of the victims’ families.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested him on July 11 on suspicion of assisting the killers and hiding the victims’ bodies on land he owned in the Hebron area, security forces said. The IDF prosecution filed an indictment against Kawasme with the Judea Military Court in September.
Kawasme, a Hebron resident, was in Israeli prison from 1995 to 2002 after being convicted of involvement in Hamas terrorist offenses, including being part of a cell that carried out bomb attacks.
“He is the son of a family whose sons have been involved in severe terrorist attacks on behalf of Hamas,” the Shin Bet said.
Hussam’s brother Hassin Kawasme is serving a life sentence for his role in a bomb attack on a bus stop across from the Jerusalem International Convention Center in March 2011. Scottish tourist Mary Jane Gardner, 59, was killed in the attack, and 39 people were wounded.
Another brother, Mahmoud Kawasme, received a 20-year prison sentence for his role in a twin suicide bombing attack aboard buses in Beersheba in August 2004, which killed 16 residents of the city and wounded more than 100 people. He was released as part of the Gilad Schalit exchange with Hamas and expelled to the Gaza Strip.
From Gaza, Mahmoud Kawasme transferred funds to his brother in Hebron for the attack on the three teenagers.
“During questioning by the Shin Bet, and during the questioning of others, it emerged that Hussam Kawasme served as a command level for the kidnapping,” the domestic intelligence agency said.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.