Ringleader in killings of 3 Israeli teens sentenced to 3 life terms

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The leader of the terrorist cell that kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in June was sentenced in an Israeli military court to three life sentences.

Hussam Kawasme of Hebron on Tuesday was sentenced in Judea Military Court to three life sentences for planning and financing the kidnapping and murder of Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel, a dual Israeli-American citizen. Kawasme, who was arrested in July, was convicted last week based on his own confession, according to the Jerusalem Post. He also was ordered to pay $63,000 to each of the three families.

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Kawasme did not see the boys as human and killed them because they were Jews, the military prosecutor said at the sentencing.

Avraham Fraenkel, father of Naftali, told the court that Kawasme deserved to be punished to the full extent of the law. He described his son to the court as a good student with a variety of interests, who also enjoyed helping  his siblings, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Kawasme said he used money provided by Hamas to carry out an attack to buy the car used in the June 12 kidnapping, as well as four firearms. The money was procured through his brother Mohamad, the indictment said. Mohamad Kawasme had been deported to Gaza after being freed from an Israeli prison in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

Kawasme said he helped bury the bodies on a plot of land he had purchased two months prior to the murders. He then helped hide the two men who drove the car and shot the teens. Those men, Marwan Kawasme and Omar Abu Aysh, were killed on Sept. 23 in a firefight with Israeli troops during an operation in Hebron to apprehend them.

The bodies of the three teens were discovered June 30, after a massive search, in a shallow grave in a field near Hebron, 18 days after they went missing.

Hussam Kawasme previously had served six years in an Israeli prison for his involvement in Hamas terror attacks.