Israel kills two suspects in abduction of teen

The June abduction of the three teens from a hitchhiking stop in the West Bank sparked a huge Israeli operation

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Israeli troops shot dead on Tuesday two Palestinians suspected of killing three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank in June, the military said, threatening to abort scheduled indirect talks with Palestinians on a long-term Gaza truce.

Israel had been searching for Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha, in their 30s from the Hebron area, for months. They were named as the men who grabbed and shot dead the three teens who were hitchhiking at night near a Jewish settlement on June 12.

Hebron residents said troops surrounded a house in the city before dawn and reported sounds of gunfire. The military said army and police forces had located Kawasme and Abu Aysha there and were seeking their arrest, when a firefight erupted, Reuters reported.

“We opened fire, they returned fire and they were killed in the exchange,” Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a telephone briefing. “We have visual confirmation for one. The second one, we have no visual confirmation, but the assumption is he was killed.”

Hebron Governor Kamel Hmeid said on Palestinian radio that the two were dead.

“It's clear now the two martyrs, al-Kawasme and Abu Aysha, were assassinated this morning during a military operation in the Hebron University area. We condemn this crime, this assassination, as deliberate and premeditated murder,” he said.

Kawasme and Abu Aysha were affiliated with Hamas, which initially denied any link to the attack. Last month the group acknowledged responsibility, though its leadership said they had no advance knowledge the men were going to strike.

The tensions in June escalated into a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas and ended with ceasefire mediated by Egypt.

On Tuesday, the two sides were scheduled to meet in Cairo for a new round of talks on a long-term pause.

Senior Hamas negotiator Ezzat al-Rishq told AFP the Palestinian team had been headed to the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence service which mediates the talks when they learned of the Hebron incident and had turned back in protest.

“The talks have been delayed by two hours,” Rishq said, condemning what he called the “assassination” of Abu Eisha and Qawasmeh.

The Israeli delegation arrived earlier on Tuesday, said an official at Cairo airport.

Tuesday's meeting is expected to set a timetable for further negotiations after the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in the first week of October, a Palestinian official said.

These include the construction of a seaport and restoring the territory’s airport, and exchanging Palestinian prisoners for the remains of Israeli soldiers.

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