Jewish youths mourn next to the graves of the three Israeli teens who were abducted and killed in the occupied West Bank, in the Israeli city of Modi'in. Photo by Reuters
Tens of thousands of mourners joined in an outpouring of
national grief at the burial of three Israeli teenagers whose
kidnapping and killing Israel blamed on the Palestinian
Islamist group Hamas.
President Shimon Peres, a usually dovish elder statesman,
echoed official vows to punish Hamas in his eulogy in the
cemetery in the centre of the country.
"I know that the murderers will be found. Israel will act
with a heavy hand until terror is uprooted," he said at the
ceremony in Modi'in, a town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israel bombed dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday,
wounding two Palestinians, striking at Hamas a day after
finding the bodies of three teenagers in the occupied West
Bank, not far from where they went missing while hitchhiking
on June 12.
But officials said Israel's security cabinet, which held an
emergency session late on Monday and was due to meet again on
Tuesday, was split on the scope of any further action in the
coastal enclave or in the West Bank. The United States and
regional power-broker Egypt urged restraint.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended the burial,
has promised that Hamas would pay.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, speaking outside the home of
one of the teens, said: "Hamas's leaders and members should
know that the blood of whoever dares strike at the citizens
of Israel is forfeit. They should know that we will pursue
them wherever they are and hit them hard."
Just before the funeral, a recording of a furtive cellphone
call one of the abducted teens made to a police emergency
number was broadcast on Israeli television stations.
"They've kidnapped me," the youngster said.
Shouted orders in Arabic-accented Hebrew - "head down, head
down", and the sound of what appeared to be muffled gunfire
followed before the call ended.
The military said aircraft attacked 34 targets in Gaza,
mostly belonging to Hamas, but did not link the strikes to
the abductions. The military cited 18 Palestinian rockets
launched against Israel from Gaza in the past two days.
Palestinian medics said two people were slightly wounded.
The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied
involvement in the disappearance of the students nor in the
cross-border rocket salvoes from Gaza.
Before their joint burial in the Israeli city of Modi'in,
funeral services were held outside the homes of Gil-Ad Shaer
and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal
"There hasn't been a show of unity like this in Israel for
years," Fraenkel's father, Avraham, said at the service as he
stood facing the body of his son, which was draped in an
Israeli television and radio stations interrupted regular
programming to broadcast the funeral, which began more than
an hour late as large crowds streamed into the cemetery.
"This shows unity among the people, but unfortunately it only
happens in times of sorrow," said one mourner, Shalom Balas,
47, a lawyer from Modi'in.
SECURITY CABINET DIVISIONS
At Monday's security cabinet meeting, the army proposed
"considered and moderate actions" against militants in the
West Bank, officials said. Any sustained campaign there could
undermine U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But the cabinet did not agree on a future course of action at
that session, officials said.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against
going too far.
"The response of the resistance has been limited, and
Netanyahu must not test Hamas's patience," said Abu Zuhri,
whose group's arsenal includes rockets that can reach Tel
Netanyahu seized on the abduction to demand Abbas annul a
reconciliation deal he reached with Hamas, his long-time
rival, in April that led to a unity Palestinian government on
An Arab diplomat familiar with Egyptian mediation between
Israel and the Palestinians said Cairo, echoing Washington,
expected the Netanyahu government to tread carefully.
"I don't believe Israel is ready, just yet, to change the
status quo," he told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "It
can punish those who did the crime, but should not get out of
control with civilians who had nothing to do with the crime."
In the West Bank on Tuesday, Israeli troops shot dead a
Palestinian who a military spokeswoman said threw a grenade
at soldiers attempting to detain a militant. A Palestinian
witness said the 19-year-old killed by the troops was a
The men Israel has accused of carrying out the abductions are
still at large.
Troops set off explosions late on Monday in the family homes
of the alleged abductors in the West Bank town of Hebron,
blowing open a doorway in one, an army spokeswoman said. The
other property was on fire after the blast. Soldiers who
arrested one of the suspect's father and brothers ordered the
inhabitants of the dwellings to leave before the detonations.
"This kind of act is a sin, whether you're a Muslim or Jew.
They've scared the kids so much," Um Sharif, the mother of
one of the alleged kidnappers, said about the damage to her
Hamas has been rocked by the arrest of dozens of its
activists in an Israeli sweep in the West Bank over the past
three weeks during the search for the teenagers that Israel
said was also aimed at weakening the militant movement.
Up to six Palestinians died as a result of the Israeli
operation, local residents said
Abbas condemned the abduction and pledged the cooperation of
his security forces, drawing criticism from Hamas and
undercutting his popularity among Palestinians angered by
what they saw as his collusion with Israel.
Hamas, which has maintained security control of the Gaza
Strip since the unity deal, is shunned by the West over its
refusal to renounce violence. The group has called for
Israel's destruction, although various officials have at
times indicated a willingness to negotiate a long-term