The curse of Hebron

Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer abu Aisha are said to be the murderers of the three religious settler students. They are still at large.

Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer abu Aisha are said to be the murderers of the three religious settler students. They are still at large.

The Palestinian Qawasmeh clan organized the kidnapping and murder of the three religious Jewish students in June 2014. There is a political agenda to their violent actions.Hussam Qawasmeh was arrested by Israeli border police on July 11 when he tried to escape from the Westbank to Jordan. During interrogation, the 40 year old man confessed to having kidnapped Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach on June 12. He also confessed to having later dumped the corpses of the three Israeli settler boys on his property near Hebron. The murder of the three young Israelis, who had been abducted while hitchhiking in the Westbank, triggered off the latest war in Gaza.

Qawasmeh’s arrest was only announced last week. However, Hussam was only the helper; according to Israeli sources, the murderers are his cousin Marwan Qawasmeh and a second Palestinian from Hebron, Amer abu Aisha. They went undercover in the Westbank, counting on the sympathy and help of the Qawasmeh clan, which is one of the largest and most influential families in the Hebron region. They are also one of the most radical families, says Shlomi Eldar in the internet platform „Al-Monitor“. Of 10.000 family members fifteen have died in the fight against Israel since the Second Intifda started fourteen years ago. Nine of them in suicide attacks.

Whenever the Qawasmeh family member who is head of military operations is assassinated by Israel, another one steps in. After Abdullah it was Basel. When Basel was killed by Israel, Imad became the leader. When Imad was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to life, Marwan Qawasmeh moved up to be head of military operations in the Hebron region.

Hebron has been a hotbed of tension between Muslims and Jews for the past hundred years. According to religious legend, Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried there in the Cave of the Patriarchs. Instead of building co-existence on common roots, the grave of Abraham became a source of contention between Jews and Muslims.

When the Jews started moving to Palestine at the beginning of the Zionist era the tension between Jews and Palestinian Arabs in Hebron escalated quickly. In 1929 the Arabs of Hebron massacred 67 members of a small Jewish community in Hebron. After Israel’s occupation of the Westbank in 1967 a group of radical religious and nationalist settlers started to rebuild the community. Hatred between settlers and city population reached another tragic climax in 1994, when Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein entered the mosque in the Cave of the Patriarchs and shot and killed 29 praying Palestinians from behind.

The settlers were not banned from Hebron at the time. The radicalization of both sides went on unhindered.

This also applies to the Qawasmeh family. The clan is usually said to be close to the Islamist Hamas movement. Hussam Qawasmeh has confessed - according to Israeli sources - to have been paid by Hamas to kidnap the Israelis. The Hamas leadership itself has denied responsibility for the kidnapping from the beginning; but also said it welcomed the operation in principle. It only became clear later that the three boys had been killed.

Many of the young Qawasmehs consider Hamas to be much too moderate. Whenever the leadership of the Islamist movement makes a step towards Israel or the moderate Palestinians Fatah leadership in the Westbank, the Qawasmeh clan tries to sabotage the progress by orchestrating a provocative operation.

In June, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented a national unity government with Hamas after hard fought over negotiations. The grand coalition of Palestinian forces should have facilitated peace talks with Israel as Abbas could finally speak for all Palestinians. Not only did Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject the unity government because it had „the terrorists of Hamas“ in it - the Qawasmehs did not like it either.

On June 12th Marwan Qawasmeh saw three hitch hiking religious settler boys at a cross road near Hebron and offered them a ride. They ended up dead.

Then the latest war between Hamas and Israel started.

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz