World / Middle East

Israel destroys homes of suspects in kidnapping and murder case

By Agencies in Jerusalem (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-19 06:52

Gaza death toll rises above 2,000, Palestinian Health Ministry says

Israeli troops on Monday demolished the homes of two Palestinians it suspects abducted and killed of three teenagers in the occupied West Bank in June, the Israeli army said.

Troops set charges to destroy the homes of Hussam Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha in the southern West Bank before dawn and sealed off the home of a third suspect, Marwan Kawasme, the army said.

 Israel destroys homes of suspects in kidnapping and murder case

A Palestinian woman walks past the ruins of houses which witnesses said were destroyed during the Israeli offensive in Johr El-Deek near the central Gaza Strip on Sunday. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

Israel accuses Hamas Islamist militants of abducting and killing Jewish seminary students Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later in the West Bank.

Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied the accusations.

Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 but the other two suspects remain at large, the army said.

The killings set off a cycle of violence that led to a monthlong offensive between Israel and militants in Hamas-dominated Gaza.

Israel carried out airstrikes and a ground offensive in the enclave to counter militant rocket fire and to blow up a network of tunnels dug under the border to infiltrate the Jewish state.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, a total of 2,016 people were killed and another 10,196 wounded. Among the dead were 541 children, 250 women and 95 elderly men, it said.

On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

Hussam Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time earlier this month in a document from a court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects should be destroyed as a punitive measure.

It said Kawasme had admitted helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from Hamas and buying weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.

Main stumbling block

He also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.

A cease-fire that brought fighting to a halt was due to expire later on Monday and Egyptian-mediated talks to end the conflict are not certain to succeed, according to Palestinian delegates participating in the talks in Cairo.

On Sunday, Palestinian and Israeli delegations resumed the talks following weekend consultations across the Middle East but gaps between the two sides remain wide, with each staking out their positions.

The Gaza blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt since the Hamas militants took control of the strip in 2007, remains the main stumbling block. It has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

A Palestinian negotiator, Qais Abdul Karim, told The Associated Press that on Sunday, Israel pressed for guarantees that Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza would be disarmed, while the Palestinians demanded an end to the blockade without preconditions.

Hamas has repeatedly said it will not give up its weapons, while Israel said it needs to maintain some degree of control over Gaza crossings to prevent the smuggling of weapons and weapon production materials into the coastal strip.

Karim said Egyptian mediators have pressed the Palestinians to present compromise proposals on the border crossing issue. The Palestinian delegation was in a meeting in the early hours on Monday over it but the outcome was not immediately known.


(China Daily 08/19/2014 page11)

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