In what is the strongest evidence yet, a top Hamas official admitted that the terror group was behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June.
In a recording that emerged Wednesday, Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri, a senior religious official in Hamas, is heard on video blessing “the heroic action” that was “carried out by the al-Qasam Brigades,” the armed wing of Hamas.
He specified that the action, “the kidnapping to Hebron of the three settlers,” was an “operation spoken of far and wide.”
The sheikh’s comments were made at a conference of Muslim scholars in Turkey.
“There are those who say that it was your brothers in the al-Qassam Brigades, who carried it out for the sake of al-Qassam members who are in jails and who sit in a hunger strike,” al-Arouri stated.
Hamas has long denied their involvement in the deaths of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frankel, 16, and Gilad Sha’ar, 16, who were last seen at a hitchhiking post on their way home from school in Judea.
Their abduction sparked a massive nation-wide 18 day manhunt that resulted in Operation Brothers Keeper. During that time, Israel cracked down on Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria and re-arrested hundreds of terrorists that were released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.
The bodies of the three teens were found partially buried in an open field near Hebron on June 30. The subsequent backlash from the deaths of the three youth led to an apparent revenge attack against a Palestinian youth, resulting in violence and unrest across Israel.
Soon after, on July 8, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to stop the indiscriminate rocket fire directed at Israel by terrorists operating out of the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this month, Israel announced that they arrested Hussam Kawasme, the mastermind behind the Hamas terror cell responsible for the abductions. Kawasme admitted to Israeli security officials under interrogation that he received funding directly from Hamas to carry out the attack.
Two other cells members, Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu-Eisha, are named by Israel as the two terrorists who carried out the killings. On Sunday, the IDF demolished the homes of Abu-Eisha and sealed off the home of Marwan Kawasmeh. They both still remain at large.