Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during
a news conference in Tel Aviv about the three abducted
Israeli teenagers. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly
Israel says Hamas militants have abducted three Israeli
teenagers in the occupied West Bank, and warned 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 allegations, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in
the Gaza Strip, stopped short of a clear denial or
confirmation that it was involved.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had mediated peace
talks that Netanyahu called off after Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas agreed a power-share 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
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.
The army said it detained around 80 suspects overnight and
would escalate the dragnet in the coming days. 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
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
"TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN"
"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
Thousands of Jews flocked to the Western Wall plaza in
Jerusalem on Sunday evening to pray for the teenagers'
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
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
Dismissing Netanyahu's "stupid comments", Hamas spokesman Abu
Zuhri suggested the Israeli leader was trying to draw the
group into disclosing whether it was behind the teenagers'
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
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."