NEW YORK (Reuters) - Several hundred people waving Israeli flags and expressing grief and solidarity held a vigil in New York on Monday after the bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers were found in the occupied West Bank.
The bodies of the teens, who attended a religious school in a Jewish settlement, were found in a field near Hebron, a militant stronghold, not far from a road where they were believed to have been abducted while hitchhiking on June 12, security officials said.
The kidnapping near a settlement in the West Bank appalled Israelis, who rallied behind the youngsters’ families in a display of national unity reminiscent of times of war or national crisis in a country with deep political and religious divisions.
Earlier on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the killings but called on all parties to exercise restraint.
Mourners gathered on a busy Manhattan street outside the Israeli Consulate and then, carrying placards bearing the names of the three Jewish seminary students, marched to the Isaiah Wall directly across from U.N. headquarters.
“Our hearts are broken. Our hearts are shattered. And all of the United Nations must speak out,” Rabbi Avi Weiss, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, told the crowd. “The murder of a person is the murder of a person. But the murder of a child is the murder of the world.”
Many in the crowd said they had come because they felt powerless and wanted to express support publicly for the families.
Several held placards that read: #bringbackourboys - evoking the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram militants that inspired a social media campaign using the hash tag #bringbackourgirls.
“It’s hard being so far away and feeling there is so little I can do,” said Ilana Shrier, 25, a commercial real estate agent and Hebrew teacher.
Israel has vowed to punish Hamas, the Palestinian group it accuses of abducting and killing the teens - Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney