Home inContext Hamas Operative Sentenced to Life

Hamas Operative Sentenced to Life

Michael Johnson

An Israeli military court sentenced Hamas operative Hossam Qawasmeh to three terms of life in prison for his role in the kidnapping and murder three Israeli teenagers last summer. The tribunal, which convicted Qawasmeh last week, also ordered the 40-year-old to pay each of the three victims families $63,000 in compensation.

Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach were originally abducted while hitchhiking in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem on June 12. The Israeli government conducted a massive search operation, arresting hundreds of Hamas operatives in the West Bank during the weeks after the kidnapping. The bodies of the three teens, one of whom held U.S. citizenship, were found near Hebron on June 30.

Hossam Qawasmeh in military court when he was indicted in September. (Photo: Emil Salman)

Hossam confessed to organizing and financing the murders after he was arrested in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem on August 5th. According to security officials, Hossam had planned to escape to Jordan after the attack, obtaining a forged passport and shaving his beard. Prosecutors contended that Hossam asked his brother Mahmoud, a Palestinian exiled to Gaza as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, for $61,000 in cash to fund the operation.

Two other co-conspirators, Amar Abu-Eisha and Marwan Qawasmeh, were killed in a shootout with Israeli security forces in Hebron in late September. Israeli officials fingered them as the trigger men who actually shot the teens inside a car.

The crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank provided the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet with valuable insights into Hamas’s growing presence outside Gaza. Troops discovered large weapons caches, underground tunnel systems, and explosives factories. With Hamas members under pressure in the West Bank, their compatriots in Gaza began firing rockets from Gaza, ultimately sparking the summer’s war.