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July 2, 2014 12:01 pm

While IDF Hunts Hamas Killers, Kidnapping Mastermind Roams Free in Turkey: Report

avatar by Dave Bender

Mourning at Kikar Zion in Jerusalem. Photo: Tazpit News Agency.

Israel believes the senior Hamas mastermind who may have inspired the abduction and killing of three teens on June 12 is a free man, living in Turkey, according to an analyst.

Matthew Levitt, who directs the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Daily Beast that Saleh al-Arouri, “makes his home inside the territory of a NATO ally.”

The Israelis say he was one of the key operational leaders who has been calling for and overseeing these various kidnapping plots over the past two years,” he said, referring to some 64 thwarted attempts to abduct soldiers and civilians, according to Shin Bet and army statistics.

“It’s not that he was necessarily on the phone with these kidnappers, but kidnapping in general has been a key focus for Hamas operatives in the last two years and al-Arouri has been encouraging it,” Levitt said.

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The report comes a day after Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar were laid to rest together on Tuesday, at a emotional funeral attended by thousands of Israelis.

The trio were apparently shot and killed by their captors, Amer abu Aysha and Marwan Qawasmeh, soon after they left their school south of Jerusalem, and were buried in a shallow grave not far away.

The two fugitives are the subjects of an immense manhunt, which has continued since the youths were discovered.

While Hamas has not taken responsibility for the killings, it has roundly praised the kidnappings and is threatening more.

Israeli military forces demolished al-Aruri’s home, near Ramallah, on June 20th.

“…I have no doubt that al-Arouri was connected to the act,” an Israeli security official told The Times of Israel a day earlier.

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