Hussam Qawasmeh, 40, who confessed to organizing the killing of the three teenagers after being interrogated by the Israeli military, was also ordered to pay the equivalent of $63,000 US in compensation to the victims' families by the Ofer Prison military court. Last Wednesday, Qawasmeh was convicted of having obtained funds from Hamas, purchasing the weapons used in the kidnap and killings, burying the teenagers' bodies on a plot of land he owned, and destroying evidence.
The victims, 16-year-old Gil-Ad Shaer, 16-year-old Naftali Fraenkel and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah had been hitchhiking home in June and went missing at a road junction between Jerusalem and Hebron; their bodies were found three weeks later at a nearby valley.
The two suspected accomplices of Qawasmeh accused of carrying out the kidnapping and murder, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, were shot and killed by Israeli military forces in September at their hideout in Hebron after evading authorities for several months.
The official Israeli court statement noted that Qawasmeh "was convicted of the most serious crimes…the cold-blooded and terrible murder of three young people who were going home to their families." It noted that "as a result of his actions, the accused is sentenced to three life terms. He will be removed from society and spend the rest of his life in prison," Agence France-Presse notes.
The teenagers' murders, the massive wave of arrests conducted by the Israeli army in East Jerusalem, and the revenge-driven kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, Abu Khdeir, by three Jewish attackers led to an escalation of violence which culminated in a 50-day military conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza in July and August. Over the course of the conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, are thought to have been killed, together with 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians, The Guardian reported. In August, Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal acknowledged that a Hamas cell had carried out the killings of the Israeli teens, but claimed that the cell had acted independently.