An Israeli military spokesperson said Tuesday that security forces had killed two Palestinians suspected of being involved in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June, according to media reports. The abductions triggered hostilities between Israel and Hamas, which ultimately led to a seven-week long conflict that ended in August.
Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner of the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, told reporters that the two suspects -- Amer Abu Aisheh and Marwan Qawasmeh -- were killed in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron in an operation carried out early on Tuesday.
“We opened fire, they returned fire and they were killed in the exchange,” Lerner reportedly said. “We have visual confirmation for one. The second one, we have no visual confirmation, but the assumption is he was killed.” Six other Palestinians were also arrested from a hideout in Hebron, according to an Al Jazeera report.
IDF Chief of Staff: "We promised the families that we would find the murderers. This morning, we did just that." pic.twitter.com/1kaVbnYXJr
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) September 23, 2014
The two Palestinians, who had remained at large since the abductions, were being pursued by the Israeli military since July, Lerner reportedly said.
Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel -- the three Israeli teens -- were abducted from Gush Etzion in the West Bank on June 12, triggering a massive manhunt in which Israel dispatched forces across the West Bank that led to the arrests of hundreds of Hamas activists. The abduction and the subsequent discovery of the corpses of the teenagers in a West Bank field on July 1 eventually sparked off a violent seven-week long war between Hamas and the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 72 Israelis.
Hamas, which had initially denied responsibility for the abduction and murder, later admitted that it had, in fact, carried out the kidnappings. Saleh al-Arouri, a co-founder of the al-Qassam Brigades, reportedly said that the Hamas’ armed wing was involved in the “heroic operation.” However, his claim was doubted by many Hamas leaders.