Palestinian behind killings that sparked Gaza war sentenced
JERUSALEM (AP) — A Palestinian convicted of masterminding the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers, which sparked a chain of events that led to last summer’s Gaza war, was sentenced to life in prison by an Israeli court on Tuesday.
The military court handed Hussam Qawasmeh three life sentences, one for each teen. The 40-year-old resident of the West Bank town of Hebron admitted to masterminding the kidnapping and to receiving funds from Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, in order to commit attacks, the military said.
The two Palestinians Israel accused of killing the teenagers were shot dead in a firefight with Israeli forces in September.
Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, were abducted and killed in June while hitchhiking home in the West Bank.
Israel launched an extensive search operation and arrested hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank. Hamas escalated rocket fire on southern Israeli cities, prompting a military response that escalated into a 50-day war.
More than 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed in the fighting, which devastated large parts of Gaza, leaving tens of thousands homeless. On the Israeli side, attacks through tunnels led to the evacuation of border communities and rocket fire -- which reached major cities -- damaged several homes and ground daily life to a halt.