JERUSALEM (JTA) – Two West Bank Palestinian men affiliated with Hamas have been identified as the alleged abductors of three Israeli teens.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Thursday identified Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme as the alleged kidnappers. The suspects, who live in Hebron, have been missing since the June 12 kidnapping.
While Israeli security officials learned of the identities of the suspected kidnappers soon after the kidnapping, it only disclosed the information publicly on Thursday. The Shin Bet and IDF have been on a manhunt since about a day after the kidnapping, according to a statement issued by the services.
Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel were abducted from a junction in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.
Abu Aysha, a 32-year-old locksmith, was last seen at a family gathering only hours before the kidnapping, his father told the Times of Israel, adding that his son left the family gathering abruptly without telling anyone where he was going.
Abu Aysha’s brother, also a Hamas member, was killed in November 2005 while attempting to hurl an explosive device at IDF soldiers during a clash in Hebron, according to the IDF.
Kawasme, a 29-year-old barber, has been detained by the Palestinian Authority and by Israel in the past for his activities with Hamas, and his family is known to have ties to Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to break ties with Hamas following the announcement.
“A short time after the kidnapping I said that those who perpetrated this activity were terrorists of Hamas. And indeed, today, the security services of Israel have published the names of two of the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” Netanyahu said in remarks at the Israel Air Force pilots’ course graduation ceremony.
“I now expect President Abbas, who said important things in Saudi Arabia, to stand by those words and to break his pact with the Hamas terrorist organization that kidnaps children and calls for the destruction of Israel.”