eliyahu asheri 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
"Everyone now knows they cannot escape capture by the IDF," OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh said Tuesday morning, hours after troops in Ramallah captured three men suspected of kidnapping and murdering Itamar resident Eliahu Asheri.
The Jerusalem Post has learned from Palestinian Authority security sources that all three suspects are members of the authority's security forces.
The sources said one of them, Bassam Shafik Atiya, was an officer in the anti-drug unit of the PA police.
A photocopy of Asheri's ID card was sent by fax to members of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip from the anti-drug unit's office in Ramallah, according to the sources.
The three men were briefly detained by the PA's General Intelligence and Preventative Security Service shortly after the murder. After confessing to the killing, they were released and warned to remain in hiding for fear that Israel would try to arrest or kill them.
On Wednesday, the men were instructed to stay inside the headquarters of the PA police in northern Ramallah. A few hours later, the building was surrounded by the IDF.
The Popular Resistance Committees issued a statement accusing the PA security forces of handing the three over to the IDF. The PRC called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to order an investigation into the matter and to dismiss the commander of the PA police in Ramallah.
Under the cover of darkness, dozens of armored jeeps carrying soldiers from the elite Duvdevan undercover unit - backed up by a Duhifat battalion - surrounded the national police headquarters in Ramallah shortly after midnight Monday night. Following a three-hour standoff, the suspects - Bassam Ktia, Hamze Taktouk and Hisham Kamangji - surrendered and were taken by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for questioning.
On June 25, Asheri, 18, was kidnapped by a terror cell after he tried hitching a ride near the Ofra Junction in Samaria. He was smuggled into Ramallah, taken to a garbage dump and shot in the head at point blank range. His body was found by the IDF last Thursday.
"We did not succeed in bringing the boy back," Naveh said. "But we closed the case and everyone now knows they cannot escape capture by the IDF."
Calling the late-night operation "complicated," Naveh said troops surrounded the police headquarters in Ramallah knowing the exact rooms the wanted men were holed up in. "We held negotiations with the local police, and under combined pressure, the wanted men surrendered, were captured and were taken for interrogation," he told reporters during a briefing at the Tapuah Junction near Nablus.
The kidnappers, Naveh said, never intended to negotiate in good faith for Asheri's release, but always planned to kill the yeshiva student and to hold negotiations over the return of his body. Over the past few days, he said, the IDF had asked the PA police to arrest the suspects and to transfer them to Israel, but had been refused.
Also on Tuesday, an IDF unit shot and killed an Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades commander in Jenin as he was planting explosives to be used in an attack against the soldiers.
The commander's accomplice was shot and wounded, as were several other Palestinians, in heavy exchanges of fire.
Later, a booby-trapped car with a 12-kilogram bomb placed by the terrorists exploded about 200 meters from troops, but no one was wounded. IDF sappers destroyed another car filled with explosives weighing 24 kilograms in an controlled explosion. The soldiers then neutralized a third explosive device that was set to be detonated via telephone.
AP contributed to this report.