American Citizen Among Missing Teens Found Dead in Israel

Israeli defense official vows to “make the entire Palestinian leadership pay a heavy price.”

Israeli soldiers stand next to their vehicles Monday in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank town of Hebron, where the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found.
National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
June 30, 2014, 11:33 a.m.

The bod­ies of three Is­raeli teen­agers who dis­ap­peared in the West Bank more than two weeks ago were found Monday in an field north of Hebron, end­ing a massive search op­er­a­tion that was ac­com­pan­ied by a vol­ley of ac­cus­a­tions between Is­raeli and Palestini­an gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

In the weeks after the dis­ap­pear­ance, Is­raeli forces swept through Palestini­an towns and cit­ies in search of the miss­ing teens and those who took them, ar­rest­ing hun­dreds and killing five in the pro­cess. The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment ac­cused Hamas of co­ordin­at­ing the kid­nap­ping, and said it would hold Pres­id­ent Mah­moud Ab­bas of the Palestini­an Au­thor­ity, who re­cently struck a re­con­cili­ation deal with Hamas, re­spons­ible as well.

“The United States con­demns in the strongest pos­sible terms this sense­less act of ter­ror against in­no­cent youth,” said Pres­id­ent Obama in a state­ment.

The bod­ies found were those of Naf­tali Fraen­kel, 16, Gil­ad Shaar, 16, and Ey­al Yi­frah, 19. The three dis­ap­peared while they were re­turn­ing home from a ye­shiva—a re­li­gious school—in the West Bank. Fraen­kel is a U.S. cit­izen.

“The en­tire na­tion is bow­ing its head with un­bear­able sor­row this even­ing,” Is­raeli Pres­id­ent Shi­mon Peres said in a state­ment. “Over the past 18 days the na­tion prayed as one that the fate of our won­der­ful teen­agers would be that they are found alive and well. Now that the bit­ter news has come, the en­tire Is­raeli na­tion mourns the pre­ma­ture death of our finest youth.”

Is­raeli Deputy De­fense Min­is­ter Danny Dan­on struck a more ag­gress­ive tone, call­ing for the total de­struc­tion of Hamas: “[W]e have to des­troy the homes of Hamas act­iv­ists, wipe out their ar­sen­als every­where, and stop the flow of money that dir­ectly or in­dir­ectly keeps ter­ror alive … make the en­tire Palestini­an lead­er­ship pay a heavy price.”

In his state­ment, Pres­id­ent Obama cau­tioned against al­low­ing the is­sue to di­vide Is­raeli and Palestini­an politi­cians. “From the out­set, I have offered our full sup­port to Is­rael and the Palestini­an Au­thor­ity to find the per­pet­rat­ors of this crime and bring them to justice, and I en­cour­age Is­rael and the Palestini­an Au­thor­ity to con­tin­ue work­ing to­geth­er in that ef­fort. I also urge all parties to re­frain from steps that could fur­ther destabil­ize the situ­ation.”

The Is­raeli se­cur­ity cab­in­et called for an emer­gency meet­ing after the news was an­nounced on Monday.

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