Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, both in their 30s, were shot
dead during a gun battle after Israeli troops surrounded a house in
the city before dawn, the army and residents said. Israel had been
hunting the men for three months.
Kawasme and Abu Aysha were suspected of carrying out the kidnapping
and killing of the three teenage seminary students, who were
abducted while hitchhiking at night near a Jewish settlement in the
West Bank on June 12.
The military said army and police forces were trying to arrest the
two suspects when a firefight erupted.
"We opened fire, they returned fire and they were killed in the
exchange," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter
The governor of Hebron, Kamel Hmeid, confirmed on Palestinian radio
that the two were dead.
"It's clear now the two martyrs, al-Kawasme and Abu Aysha, were
assassinated this morning during a military operation in the Hebron
University area. We condemn this crime, this assassination, as
deliberate and premeditated murder," he said.
Kawasme and Abu Aysha were affiliated with Hamas, which initially
denied any link to the June attack.
Last month, however, the group acknowledged responsibility, although
its leadership said it had no advance knowledge that the men were
planning to abduct the students.
"Hamas praises the role martyrs Abu Aysha and Kawasme played in
chasing down Israeli settlers and we stress that their assassination
will not weaken the resistance," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the operation. "We
will continue to strike terrorism everywhere," he said at the start
of a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. "This morning the long arm of
Israeli justice caught them."
[to top of second column]
Israeli forces have conducted widespread sweeps across the West Bank
in the past three months, rounding up hundreds of suspected Hamas
members in house-to-house raids in the hunt for the suspects behind
The abduction and killing of Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gilad Shaer and
Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, caused alarm throughout Israel and set
off a cycle of violence, including the killing of Palestinian
Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, by three Israelis who have been arrested
Khudair's killing led to clashes between Palestinian youths and
Israeli police in East Jerusalem, while the round-up of Hamas
suspects across the West Bank provoked rocket fire at Israel from
militants in Gaza, leading to the war.
Gaza medical officials say 2,100 Palestinians, most of them
civilians, were killed in the 50-day conflict, while 67 Israeli
soldiers and six civilians in Israel were also killed.
Efforts to forge a lasting peace agreement following the war are set
to resume in Cairo on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Noah Browning in Ramallah and Nidl
al-Mughrabi in Gaza Writing by Maayan Lubell Editing by Jeremy
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