Israel says Hamas militants behind abduction of three teens

JERUSALEM Sun Jun 15, 2014 6:09pm EDT

1 of 2. An Israeli soldier stands guard in the West Bank city of Hebron June 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/ Mussa Qawasma

Related Video

Related Topics

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Sunday that Hamas militants had abducted three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank, warning of "serious consequences" as it pressed on with a search and detained dozens of Palestinians.

The two 16-year-olds and a third man aged 19, seminary students in a Jewish settlement bloc, disappeared on Thursday.

"These teenagers were kidnapped and the kidnapping was carried out by Hamas members," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters, referring to the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

There has been no public claim of responsibility. Asked about Netanyahu's charge, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stopped short of a clear denial or confirmation the group was involved.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had mediated peace talks that Netanyahu called off after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to a power-sharing deal with Hamas in April, gave qualified backing to the prime minister's allegation.

"We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement," Kerry said in a statement. 

"As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organisation known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past."

Since the three teenagers vanished, apparently while hitchhiking, the Israeli army has carried out house-to-house searches, round-ups and interrogations in the Palestinian city of Hebron and outlying villages.

Israeli troops used explosives to force their way into a Hebron home belonging to a Hamas-linked family after occupants did not admit them, said Palestinian witnesses, who also heard gunfire during the incident. They said two people inside were hurt and, along with a third man, were taken away by soldiers.

The army declined to comment, citing operational secrecy.

Earlier, the army said it had detained around 80 suspects overnight and would escalate the dragnet. Palestinian officials put the number seized by Israel so far at more than 100, including at least seven Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament and several people recently freed from Israeli jails.

"TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN"

Israel identified the seminary students as Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Sha'er and Naftali Frankel, who also holds U.S. citizenship. In their last communication, one of the three managed to phone police on Thursday night to report that they were being kidnapped, according to an Israeli security official. Israel says it does not know if the three are alive or dead.

"Naftali, your dad and mom and siblings love you endlessly, and you should know that the people of Israel are turning the world upside down to bring you home," Frankel's mother, Rachel, said in a televised statement outside the family home.

Thousands of Jews flocked to the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem on Sunday evening to pray for the teenagers' return.

Gilad Erdan, a minister in Netanyahu's security cabinet, told Israel's Channel 2 television that Abbas's security forces were "willingly" helping search for the teenagers. Palestinian authorities acknowledged the cooperation, drawing Hamas censure.

Erdan played down, however, the role of a Palestinian administration which Netanyahu wants world powers to pressure into dissolving the Abbas-Hamas pact. Recovering the teenagers and dealing with their captors would be "almost entirely based on the Israeli military and security services," Erdan said.

In broadcast remarks at a cabinet session held at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he has been overseeing recovery efforts, Netanyahu warned of "serious consequences". Speaking later in English, he pledged: "Israel will act against the kidnappers and their terrorist sponsors and comrades".

Dismissing Netanyahu's "stupid comments", Hamas's Abu Zuhri suggested the Israeli leader was trying to draw it into disclosing whether it was behind the teenagers' disappearance.

Palestinian militants have said they want to kidnap Israelis to win concessions from the Israeli government, and the current incident coincides with a hunger strike by some 300 Palestinian prisoners protesting against detention without trial.

More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were freed in 2011 in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip for more than five years.

Netanyahu said Abbas's alliance with Hamas had emboldened militants in the West Bank, where the U.S.-supported Palestinian leader's Fatah movement has held sway, and demanded he do "all that is necessary" to resolve the crisis. Kerry said Washington "encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing."

(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Ali Sawafta, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams and Jim Loney in Washington; Editing by Sophie Hares, Robin Pomeroy and Dan Grebler)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (26)
paintcan wrote:
It’s to make up for all the teenagers that waste in your prisons no doubt”. The Palestinian prisoners are on a long hunger strike as I understand it.

When both sides are wrong in some fundamental ways – what does it matter now that the wrongs can only be less or more wrong?

Israel can always make it worse by blasting, at a rate of hundreds to one, more Palestinians. Or the seminary students can get their noses out of their provincial “good books” and get to know someone from the other side for a change? It’s gotta be some kind of brainwashing to do Jewish and nothing but Jewish all day? It’s must be outright stultifying?

Who know? Maybe the Hamas militants will be taking them home to meet their families to show them what that expanding biblical homeland, uberIsrael, really costs in human terms? Seminary students are very like Islamic Madrassas from the sounds of it. Or at least some of them are.

It’s pretty obvious now – and very boring- that anyone can be a terrorist if you aggravate them enough.

BTW – anyone can lie, a very practiced lie, while they are polite and the situation is well under the cover and protection of politeness. It’s when you get them really steaming mad and they really get hot under their stuffed shirt that you really start to see some of the truth. And that doesn’t required sadism or torture.

But be careful, you just might reduce them to tears.

Jun 15, 2014 7:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
I’m so naive. Being reducing to tears is a psy-ops tactic and the people that know the technique can still be lying and greedy bastards and on the take or hired by some interest or another. I didn’t read about death camps and see holocaust movies since high school for nothing. And even that had a more immediate profit motive then I realized then including the price of the books.

Frank Capra endings are for Christmas. Hell is always far more attractive than heaven and a lot more profitable. I haven’t seen the quote yet but Nietzsche is supposed to have said “civilization is organized cruelty”.

They used to say it about Kennedy’s assassination all the time: “We killed John Kennedy”. How about a new one: the occupants of those illegal settlements kidnapped those seminarians? Too cloying?

Jun 15, 2014 8:07am EDT  --  Report as abuse
VultureTX wrote:
@paintcan
“what does it matter now that the wrongs can only be less or more wrong?”

so moral relativism from you, well congrats may you too be kidnapped even though you as a individual were innocent.

/oh wait that would not happen because you are an anti semite who only cares about the actions jews do, and ignore what muslims do in the same region.

Jun 15, 2014 10:04am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.