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article imageBodies of missing Israeli teens found near Hebron

By Nathan Salant     Jun 30, 2014 in World
Jerusalem - Three Israeli teens who vanished from the West Bank and were feared kidnapped more than two weeks ago were found murdered Monday in a field near Hebron.
The bodies of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, were found beneath rocks by Israeli soldiers who had questioned relatives of Palestinians considered suspects in the case, according to the Reuters news service.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted with anger Monday, threatening to punish the Islamic group Hamas, which Israel suspects of responsibility for the abduction.
"They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts," Netanyahu said in a written statement Monday.
"Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay," he said.
The two suspects, who were not identified, are at large, Reuters said.
Netanyahu called an emergency cabinet session to presumably consider military moves against Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 but recently agreed to join a unity government with the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied Netanyahu's allegations.
But the United States asked Israel to take a "measured" response to the discovery of the bodies, Reuters said.
Dozens of Israelis assembled Monday at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, where Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995, to light memorial candles in memory of the teenagers, who were seminary students at a nearby Jewish settlement.
A day earlier, thousands of Israelis had attended a prayer vigil at the same spot in support of the youngsters.
But Israel has not merely been waiting to hear from the presumed kidnappers since June 12, when the teens disappeared while hitchhiking.
Israeli soldiers have arrested dozens of Hamas activists during their search for the youngsters in a military sweep that Israel conceded was also intended to weaken the militant group.
As many as six Palestinians have been killed in the operation, Reuters said.
"On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish to tell their dear families ... our hearts are bleeding, the entire nation is weeping with you," Netanyahu said in his statement.
Israeli officials said the three teens apparently were shot soon after they were abducted near Hebron, which is a militant stronghold and the hometown of two of the suspects, Reuters said.
"They were under a pile of rocks, in an open field," Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, told Reuters.
As large numbers of Israeli troops assembled to recover the bodies, Netanyahu told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abrogate the reconciliation deal with Hamas that had led to the breakdown of long-running peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas had condemned the abduction and agreed to cooperate with Israeli search efforts, a development that proved upsetting to many Palestinians, Reuters said.
Hamas advocates the destruction of Israel, which led Netanyahu to withdraw from peace negotiations after the unity government was announced, Reuters said.
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