Three Missing Israeli Teenagers Found Dead
A sad end to the story of three missing Israeli boys:
JERUSALEM — Israeli military searchers found three bodies believed to be those of the missing Israeli teenagers who disappeared more than two weeks ago in the occupied West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called an emergency Cabinet meeting.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the bodies, which were undergoing forensic identification, were found “following extensive searches” in the Palestinian territory.
The disappearances set off an uproar in Israel and deeply aggravated the already strained relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials blamed Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas did not take responsibility but praised the abduction of the three Israelis.
Senior Israeli officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Army had found the three bodies buried under rocks in an open field between Halhul and Beit Kahil, two Palestinian towns outside Hebron. The families had been notified by the military.
“They know it’s the three, they will know for sure after they do the autopsy,” one of the officials said. The three appeared to have been shot to death, likely “very close to the kidnap” time, the official said, and the prime suspects had still not been caught.
The three teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who also holds United States citizenship, were last seen entering a car at about 10 p.m. on June 12 at a hitchhiking stop in the Gush Etzion settlement block, not far from the area where the bodies were found.
One of the abducted youths managed to place an emergency call to the police and whispered that he’d been kidnapped but the police initially thought it was a prank call. The search only started hours later when some of the parents reported their sons missing.
At 8 p.m. Monday, dozens of military and police vehicles had completely blocked off the north entrance to Halhul, a Palestinian city next to Hebron and the Jewish settlement Karmei Tzur. Inside Halhul, police convoys were operating and scores of troops were visible. But there were practically no cars on Road 60, the main artery south from Jerusalem to Hebron — the road on which the teenagers would have hitchhiked toward home.
The discovery came after an extensive search involving hundreds of soldiers who had been combing the Hebron area for two weeks. In parallel to the search, the Israeli military conducted an aggressive campaign of arrests and raids aimed at weakening the infrastructure of Hamas in the West Bank. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank in more than a decade.
Given the state of affairs in the Middle East, and especially as it concerns Hamas, it’s not hard to see that this will lead to some form of retaliation from Israel. Whether that sets off a new round of hostilities is another question, but it’s unlikely to lead to anything good.