Worst Fears Confirmed: Israeli Searchers Find Bodies of Three Kidnapped Teens
Israeli army forces on Monday discovered the bodies of three teenagers who Israel says Hamas terrorists kidnapped from a hitchhiking post south of Bethlehem on June 12.
“They were under a pile of rocks in an open field” between Halhul and Beit Kahil, according to IDF Spokesman Peter Lerner.
IDF Kfir Battallion forces discovered the lifeless bodies at about 17:00 pm; it is unclear, as of the time of publication, when the three were killed, although sources said they may have been murdered soon after their abduction.
“…three bodies were discovered in the area north-west to Hebron, north of the community of Telem,” the army said in a statement.
“The bodies are currently going through forensic identification,” the army said, “adding that the families of the abducted teens have been notified.”
The nation was convulsed in the wake of the kidnapping 18 days ago of Gilad Shaar, 16, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Naftali Frankel, 16, as they made their way home from their high school, Mekor Haim, in the Gush Etzion bloc, for the weekend. Searchers found them a few kilometers from the scene of the abduction.
Frankel had dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship; his family is from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Army radio reported small scale clashes with Palestinians in Hebron and the vicinity of Halhoul, south of Bethlehem; police and other security forces are blocking roads between the two Palestinian areas.
IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, and senior officers are in the area, according to Channel 10 television.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for the abductions, and fingered two members it was searching for, going as far as to interrogate their parents and family members.
Monday night, army forces commandeered the homes of the two, in Hebron, and unconfirmed Palestinian sources said the army had sealed the structures.
Hamas’ leadership in the Gaza Strip has gone underground, according to Palestinian sources, fearing an Israeli strike in reaction to the discovery, as well as two weeks of intermittent rocket salvos into southern communities.
The Security Cabinet is to go into session at 21:30 (IST), and a Knesset debate and vote scheduled for this evening were canceled, according to parliamentary sources.
Israel mounted the largest manhunt in its history in the search for the trio, at one point pouring no less than 10 battalions of troops into the vicinity. Security forces arrested hundreds of Palestinians and suspected Hamas members throughout the West Bank, and interrogated them in an immense intelligence effort to find and rescue the youths.
On Sunday night, an estimated 75,000 Israelis came together in Tel Aviv’s central Rabin Square for a rally in their behalf.