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article imageIsrael bombs Gaza Strip on day of national grief

By Nathan Salant     Jul 2, 2014 in World
Gaza - Israeli warplanes bombed dozens of sites Tuesday in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as tens of thousands of mourners said goodbye to three Jewish seminary students found murdered the day before.
The three teens apparently were kidnapped while hitchhiking near their religious schools in the West Bank at the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, according to the Reuters news service.
Israel blames Hamas, the Islamic group that wrested control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2006, for the slayings and has vowed retribution, Reuters said.
Hamas has applauded the kidnapping but denied any involvement in it.
But Tuesday's attacks targeted Hamas sites in Gaza, consistent with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement Monday that his country planned to "strike hard at Hamas people and infrastructure in the West Bank."
Israeli military officials said the airstrikes were in retaliation for 18 missiles fired at Jewish settlements from Gaza on Sunday and Monday, and not for the murders.
Israeli planes bombed 34 targets in Gaza on Tuesday,
Netanyahu vowed to strike at anyone involved in the kidnappings. "We will get them, even if it takes time," he said.
Netanyahu's remarks came after memorial services at the homes of the three young men -- Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19 -- and a group burial in Modi'in, a town between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Even the usually dovish Israeli President Shimon Peres told mourners that Israel, which had staged a massive search operation in the West Bank since the teens disappeared June 12, would not rest until two known suspects had been arrested.
"Israel will act with a heavy hand until terror is uprooted," Peres said.
"I know that the murderers will be found," he said.
As many as six Palestinians were killed in the three-week search operation, Reuters said.
In Jerusalem, members of Israel's cabinet met throughout the day, reportedly developing further strategies to degrade or eliminate Hamas, which is considered a terror group by most Western nations.
There was no agreement on any new courses of action, Reuters said.
"Hamas's leaders and members should know that the blood of whoever dares strike at the citizens of Israel is forfeit," Moshe Yaalon, Israel's defense minister, told Reuters.
"They should know that we will pursue them wherever they are and hit them hard," he said.
Netanyahu has demanded that PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who recently signed a unity agreement with Hamas that resulted in the breakdown of nine months of peace talks with Israel, remove the group from the united government.
Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and regularly calls for its destruction.
The United States, Israel's most prominent supporter, and Egypt, the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state, urged restraint on all sides, Reuters said.
Television and radio stations across Israel interrupted their regular programming to broadcast the funeral, Reuters said.
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