tel aviv | A national ordeal here ended in tragedy as three Israeli teenagers kidnapped earlier this month were found dead near Hebron.
The discovery of their bodies Monday night by the Israeli army and volunteer searchers brings to an unhappy conclusion the intensive effort to find the missing teens.
Eyal Yifrah, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were kidnapped June 12 while hitchhiking near the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion. All three were studying in West Bank yeshivas.
Their bodies were found partially exposed in an area called Wadi Tellem north of the Palestinian village of Halhul. Israeli reports said the boys seem to have been killed soon after they were kidnapped.
“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at an emergency meeting of the Israeli security Cabinet Monday night. “On behalf of the entire Jewish people, I would like to tell the dear families – the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and brothers and sisters – we are deeply saddened, the entire nation weeps with you.”
He said, “Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay.”
Israel had previously named Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, two Hamas members, as prime suspects in the abduction. The two have been missing since the kidnapping and are still at large. Hamas has not taken responsibility for the kidnapping.
Israel has sealed off the area where the bodies were found, as well as the city of Hebron.
Leaders from across the Israeli political spectrum, as well as Diaspora Jewish leaders, expressed grief at the news that the bodies were found.
Some also called for strong measures against Hamas.
“In their memories, we must ensure that this tragic end be turned into an opportunity to create a better and safer Israel,” Israel’s deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, said in a statement. “Israelis have the willingness and the fortitude necessary to endure the hardships of a long-lasting operation aimed at eradicating Hamas. We will not stop until Hamas is completely defeated.”
After the discovery of the teens’ bodies, Hamas warned Israel against stepping up its military offensive against it.
“If the occupiers carry out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the French news agency AFP.
Following the kidnapping, the Israeli army spread out across the Hebron area conducting an intensive search for the teens. Six Palestinians were killed over the course of the operation. Hebron’s Palestinian population was placed under curfew, and Palestinians with Israeli work permits were not allowed into Israel for a week after the abduction.
Meanwhile, dozens of rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel amid the search.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had publicly condemned the kidnapping, and P.A. security forces aided the Israeli army in the search for the teens.
The kidnapping has dominated Israeli news. Israelis gathered in prayer vigils across the country, and the boys’ mothers became symbols of resilience. On Sunday, a day before the teens were found, more than 10,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for a concert to call for the boys’ return.
As news of the murders emerged, hundreds slowly gathered in Tel Aviv again, in Rabin Square, to light candles in memory of the teens and sing songs.
But the kidnapping also brought up a range of national debates – about the nature of the military operation, Israel’s approach to the Palestinians and, most of all, the wisdom of exchanging Palestinian prisoners for kidnapped Israelis. Israel’s last kidnapping incident – when Hamas took soldier Gilad Shalit captive in 2006 – ended with Israel swapping 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.
More than 50 of those prisoners were rearrested in the Israeli military operation to find the boys as well as weaken Hamas’ presence in the West Bank. Hundreds of Hamas operatives were arrested during the operation.
In the weeks since the kidnapping, Fraenkel’s mother, Rachel, a U.S. citizen, advocated fiercely for his release in international forums, pleading to the U.N. Human Rights Council last week for the organization to do more to secure his release.
“It is wrong to take children – innocent boys and girls – and use them as instruments in any struggle,” she said. “Every mother’s nightmare is waiting and waiting for her son to come home.”
Additional reporting from Ynetnews.com
Hundreds of Israelis spontaneously gathered Monday night in different locations across the country to mourn in solidarity with the families of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach.
Some 300 teenagers flocked to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv while dozens of youths met in Zion Square in Jerusalem. Hundreds also converged on junctions along Route 60, from Gush Etzion to Hebron, in order to pray, sing, and light candles for the deceased.
A crowd also gathered near Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, where the bodies of the three boys were transferred for identification. Candles were lit in the memories of the teens.
The yeshivas where the boys had studied also became gathering centers. “We cried a lot together, this is a very hard day,” said Misha-El Rubin, one of the rabbis of Shavei Hevron, of the moment they heard that Eyal’s body had been found.
“It is clear that those who had the time to get to know Eyal felt a deep personal loss, but this is bigger than that, this is a national matter,” he added.
Israeli security forces on Monday located the bodies of the three Israeli teens who went missing on June 12 while hitchhiking in the Hebron area of the West Bank.
The three bodies were found around 6 pm in a shallow grave dug by their abductors in the wadi between Beit Khalil and Halhul. According to initial estimates, the boys were shot shortly after their kidnapping, in a premeditated plan by their abductors.
Jweekly.com has received the following statements:
WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS
World Jewish Congress shocked at murder of 3 abducted Israeli teens
JERUSALEM/NEW YORK – News that the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by terrorists on 12 June 2014 from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion near the West Bank city of Hebron were murdered was met with shock and outrage by the leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC). WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said the thoughts of the entire international Jewish community were with the families of Naphtali Fraenkel, Gilad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach. The bodies of the three were discovered on Monday near the site of their abduction.
Israeli authorities have evidence that the abduction was done by members of the Islamist Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip and recently entered into agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group.
“We are beyond shocked, outraged and heartbroken by these despicable murders. Once again, Hamas has revealed its true colors: This group blatantly disregards human life, and it doesn’t even refrain from hijacking innocent teenagers. Those who committed this heinous crime must be hunted down and brought to justice.
“Clearly, Hamas is a terrorist organization, and it must be dismantled, and it is the responsibility of Mahmoud Abbas to remove all Hamas-linked officials from his government immediately and fight terrorism vigorously and urgently. Abu Mazen needs to show leadership now,” Lauder declared.
He also urged the international community, and in particular the United States and the European Union, to halt all financial support for the Palestinian Authority until Hamas is excluded from all government bodies. “This murder must spur the world into action, and the fight against fanatic, extremist groups such as Hamas must be stepped up urgently,” said the WJC president.
JEWISH NATIONAL FUND
This afternoon the world learned of the killings of the three teenagers in Israel, Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Our prayers and thoughts go out to their families and to all who knew and loved them.
In a way, their loss is one that we all share. Each of us came to know Naftali, Gilad and Eyal in the last two weeks through the global campaign #BringBackOurBoys. Their story and captivity brought people together from many backgrounds and nations to support their release. It was indeed an unprecedented display of emotion and community not seen in some time.
However, the fact remains that these young men were abducted and struck down for no reason. They were not soldiers but Jewish students who loved Israel, desired to learn Torah, and had their entire lives before them.
In tribute to their lasting memory, Jewish National Fund will create gardens to honor Naftali z”l, Gilad z”l and Eyal z”l.
In the meantime, we will honor the customs of our forefathers and grieve with the families who have lost so much. Our prayers are with them all.
May the families be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.
May the families know no more sorrow.
Jeffrey E. Levine
President, Jewish National Fund
Russell F. Robinson
CEO, Jewish National Fund
SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER
SWC: President Obama Must Tell Abbas to End Unity Government with Hamas or US Aid to PA Will End
Mashaal’s endorsement of Israeli teens’ kidnapping shows this is an organization of terror and murder unworthy of any contact with the United States or the European Union
The Simon Wiesenthal Center expresses its condolences and total solidarity with the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel whose bodies where recovered near Hebron.
“This is not a time for ambiguity but for decisive action. Those are our children who were murdered by Hamas, but make no mistake the leadership of that terrorist organization is already planning the next attack against women and children,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier, SWC Founder and Dean and Abraham Cooper, SWC Associate Dean.
“President Obama must act by sending an unmistakable message to President Abbas: ‘Are you the leader of a government that seeks peace or the leader who accepts murderers of children as part of his government?'”
“President Obama must tell the Palestinian people that peace and Hamas are mutually exclusive and that the US will no longer agree to any contact with a Palestinian government where any member of Hamas – political, military, or technocrat,” Hier and Cooper concluded.
JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE FOLLOWING BAY AREA AGENCIES:
Jewish Community Relations Council
Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund
Jewish Federation/Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay
American Jewish Committee, San Francisco
It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we mourn the murder of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, who were kidnapped on Thursday, June 12. Their bodies were found in the West Bank town of Halhul, located north of Hebron.
For the past 18 days, our Bay Area Jewish community and communities around the world have come together in support, in solidarity and in prayer. Our hearts are with their families during this terrible time, and we continue to stand with Israel as authorities search for the terrorists responsible for this heinous crime. We hope that the perpetrators are quickly apprehended and brought to justice.
May the memories of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal be blessings.
Rabbi Doug Kahn, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council
Jim Offel, Interim CEO, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund
Mervyn Danker, Regional Director, American Jewish Committee
Rabbi James Brandt, CEO, The Jewish Federation/The Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay
AJC SAN FRANCISCO
Heartbreak and anger. Those are the two words that best describe what we’re feeling at this moment.
Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were innocent young men with promising lives ahead of them. In each one of them we see our own sons, brothers and friends.
When they left their yeshivas on June 12, they were heading home for Shabbat. They never made it. They were kidnapped and-we now know-murdered by terrorists.
We received the news of their death today with horror and sadness.
As AJC Executive Director David Harris wrote in a statement released earlier today, “We share the anguish of the parents and families of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, and of the entire Israeli nation.”
We can only hope that all people of goodwill will unite in unambiguous, immediate condemnation of this murder, and reject the moral validity of a Palestinian government that includes Hamas as one of its two pillars.
At this moment, we as an AJC family stand together in mourning and solidarity.
Nancy Price, President, AJC San Francisco
Mervyn Danker, Director, AJC San Francisco
ED ROYCE, CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement on news that the bodies of Israeli teenagers Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar have been found:
“Our nation’s thoughts and prayers are with the families of Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar. Naftali Frankel was a dual US-Israeli citizen. The killers must be held accountable. The brutal murder of these boys should leave the Administration with no illusion that a Hamas-backed Palestinian government will be a partner for peace. With these killings, the genocidal intent of Hamas has been laid bare yet again.”
Our hearts are breaking at the horrific news of the murder of the three Israeli teenagers: Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaer.
Israelis, Jews and people of goodwill around the world were consumed with worry following the cruel and cowardly kidnapping of the teens.
The news of their brutal murder is painful to absorb.
As we stood with and embraced the families following the kidnapping, we stand with them today, sharing their grief and wishing them strength at this tragic time.
This sad news reminds us that terrorists continue to act with impunity under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. It reminds us that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no place in any serious leadership or negotiating position. We see a clear link between the horrific acts of violence by Jihadists in Iraq and Syria and the acts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror groups.
Hate education against Jews and Israelis continues unabated in the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and many other Arab countries. The result is bigotry, violence and murder. The institutionalized incitement against Jews and Israel permeates education, the media, mosques and other social institutions, directed and supported by the Palestinian leadership. This ‘education’ produced the stomach-turning images of some Palestinians celebrating the boys’ abduction. This “education” resulted in the murder of our thee innocent boys.
The world has been united in keeping the boys and their families uppermost in our thoughts and prayers, and will continue to do so now.
We pray for the strength that the families and our greater community will need to cope with this tragedy.
International pressure must be placed on the Palestinian Authority to stop the ongoing incitement to bigotry, hatred and violence. The Palestinian leadership, both Abbas and Hamas, must finally be held accountable for their actions. EU and American funding of the PA should be tied to that accountability.
We continue to support Israel’s security procedures that protect its citizens from acts of terror like this.
We join all of Israel, and good people around the world, in mourning Eyal, Naftali and Gilad.
May their memories be a blessing to all people of goodwill.
May God comfort the family among all the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem
The StandWithUs Staff and Board of Directors
UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM
USCJ Leaders Express Grief and Outrage at Murder of Teen Boys
Following the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens, the leaders of United Synagogue released the following statement:
The leadership and board of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism join together with the worldwide community of mourners to express shock, grief, and outrage at the news of the brutal murder of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, the three Israeli students who were kidnapped earlier this month.
There can be no justification for what was done to these boys, who were murdered for no other reason than that they were Israelis and Jews. It was a cowardly, depraved act reflecting an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life. We stand with our Israeli brothers and sisters in their time of grief, and call for the swift delivery of justice.
Over the last several weeks, we have felt the solidarity and fellowship of millions of people around the world who prayed for the three boys’ safe return. In the course of this ordeal, Gilad, Naftali and Eyal became everyone’s son or brother, and each of us feels we have lost a member of our family.
May the families of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach be comforted among the mourners of Zion.
Let their memories be for a blessing.
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO
Richard Skolnik, International President
B’NAI B’RITH INTERNATIONAL
We are outraged and horrified by the murder of three Israeli teenagers missing since they were kidnapped in the West Bank June 12. The three teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were abducted as they returned home from school.
The kidnapping and subsequent murders are the direct product of the constant and relentless incitement taught by the Palestinians.
For many decades, generations of Palestinians have been raised on a diet of hate, which feeds the terror targeting Israel. The twin evils of incitement and terrorism have once again shown that Israel does not have a credible partner for peace.
The Israeli government has placed the blame for the kidnappings-which occurred less than two weeks after the swearing in of the Fatah-Hamas-backed Palestinian government-directly on Hamas, which remains committed to the destruction of Israel and to carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
It is the duty of the Palestinians to surrender the murderers to Israel.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the teens and with the people of Israel.
New York, NY, June 30, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed deep sorrow over the news that the bodies of the three abducted Israeli teens have been found in the outskirts of Hebron. Senior government officials said members of the Israel Defense Forces have found the bodies of kidnapped teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach buried under rocks in an open field outside of Hebron.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn that our worst fears have been realized.
In the 18 days since these boys were abducted, Israel and its supporters around the world came together to pray for their safe return. Unfortunately, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali will not be returning home to their families or to their studies.
We extend our sincerest condolences to the Yifrach, Shaar and Fraenkel families.
We take this opportunity to affirm our solidarity with the State of Israel at this difficult time and to condemn all those who engage in and support terrorism. We reiterate our support for Israel’s right to self-defense.
RABBINICAL COUNCIL OF AMERICA & THE ORTHODOX UNION
We cry out in anguish and in outrage at the unspeakable horror of today’s announcement that the three teens, whom Jews and so many other people of good will around the world dared to hope would be found and returned safely to their families, were instead murdered in cold blood by their Hamas kidnappers, apparently shortly after their abduction 18 days ago.
The Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union, with the rest of acheinu kol beis Yisroel (our brothers, the entire nation of Israel), mourn this unthinkable tragedy, this worst possible end to the search for Naftali Frenkel, 16; Gil-Ad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. This is, unfortunately, only the latest episode in which innocent lives have been snuffed out by adherents of a murderous, amoral death cult sworn to the destruction of Israel, and the genocide of the Jewish people.
The Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America offer their profound condolences to the families of these three boys, whom we have all come to think of as our own sons. Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal were our family, our brothers. The world needs to recognize, as it often fails to do, the nature of the enemies that are arrayed against Israel and the level of inhumanity of which they are capable. We join in the call for swift and resolute punishment for the perpetrators of this atrocity, and call upon world leaders to continue to affirm that such heinous tactics have no place in the civilized world.
The recurring theme expressed by the courageous mothers of the teens, as they saw the throngs who joined with them in support, is the unity of the Jewish people. Before, we were unified in prayer and hope for the boys’ safe return. Now, tragically, we are unified in grief.
May the families, the people of Israel, all those who stood with the families and held them in their hearts and prayers, be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) mourns the deaths of the three Jewish Israeli youths — Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16 — snuffed out by Palestinian Arab terrorist murderers who abducted them earlier this month near Hebron. The corpses of the three teenagers were discovered earlier today by Israeli police, bound and partially buried, in an open field at Wadi Tellem near Hebron.
The kidnappers have been identified by Israel as Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Eisha, who belong to Hamas, which calls in its Charter for the worldwide murder of Jews and with which Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah/Palestinian Authority (PA) formed a new government last month. The ZOA has called on President Barack Obama to terminate U.S. taxpayer-funded aid to the Hamas/Fatah unity regime.
The ZOA condemns this heinous crime committed by the Palestinian Arab terrorists and is also deeply critical of the fact that President Barack Obama did not condemn the kidnapping of the youths at any time during the 18-day ordeal, even though one of the youths, Naftali Frankel, was a dual American-Israeli citizen.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA mourns the lives of these three Jewish teenagers, mercilessly and viciously snuffed out by their Palestinian terrorist abductors. Our hearts are grief-stricken and go out to their families, who have endured an unimaginable nightmare, only to awaken to utter horror and loss.
“We condemn this unspeakable crime, one which Hamas has ghoulishly praised and welcomed, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal saying, ‘Blessed be the hands that captured them.’
“We now call upon Abbas to terminate his Fatah/PA unity regime with Hamas, especially in view of the PA’s statement earlier this month that it would do so if Hamas was involved in the kidnapping.
“We also condemn Abbas for his criticism of Israel having mounted extensive, house-to-house searches for the kidnapped youths. This is what any self-respecting country does when its citizens are victims of terrorism. When the Boston Marathon was bombed by radical Muslim terrorists, the Boston police locked down half the city and conducted house-to-house searches until they located the perpetrators. Why would or should Israel do any less?
“We are also critical of President Obama throughout this crisis. In 18 days, he uttered no criticism or condemnation of the kidnapping of the three youths, one of whom is an American citizen; he merely expressed concern. Condemnation of this terrorist act came only from Secretary of State John Kerry — after several days had passed. We believe it is grossly inadequate for an American president to fail to condemn this kidnapping, involving an American citizen.
“Did not President Obama say on May 23 at the National Defense University that the U.S. needed to conduct ‘a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America’? Surely this should mean cutting off a regime which includes just such a terrorist network?
“We call upon President Obama to demand that Abbas terminate his unity regime with Hamas, failing which he will cut relations and aid to the PA. In particular, he should immediate announce the cancellation of nearly $500 million recently announced to the Hamas/Fatah regime.”
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF YOUNG ISRAEL
The National Council of Young Israel expresses its deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Yifrach, Shaar, and Frenkel families, as well as to the State of Israel, on the tragic deaths of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel.
The barbaric and cowardly act that claimed the lives of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali is a sobering reminder of the terrorist threat that the State of Israel perpetually faces and the callous disregard for human life that is constantly exhibited by the terrorists whose primary goal is to destroy the Jewish State and obliterate its citizenry. The perpetrators of this sadistic act must be held accountable and brought to justice, and the international community must respond accordingly and immediately condemn these brutal murders in the strongest terms possible. Civilized people all over the world should be outraged at the murder of these innocent children.
The horrific murder of these three boys occurred in territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which has become a safe haven for terrorists that take great pride in murdering Jews. There need to be changes put in place to ensure that this gruesome and senseless murder of three Jewish teenagers is the last such heinous crime.
We reiterate our call for the United States to halt all aid to the Palestinian Authority until they end their contemptible practice of naming streets after terrorists and promoting as heroes those who murder Jews.
By entering into a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas, the Palestinian Authority ran afoul of the provisions of the United States’ annual appropriations bills, which clearly state that no aid is permitted for a power-sharing government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and that no aid is allowed for Hamas or entities controlled by Hamas. The United States must follow the law and cease sending funds to the Palestinian Authority in light of this egregious breach and in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy involving three innocent boys.
In addition, if the Palestinian Authority does not break from Hamas and end the incitement that permeates its communities, the United States should take the necessary steps to downgrade the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic status as a strong rebuke for embracing Hamas and glorifying terrorism.
A public statement condemning a kidnapping is mere words, but the actions of naming streets after murderers and giving safe havens to terrorists needs to change now, and aid must be stopped at a minimum until these critical changes take place.
We pray that G-d will grant the strength to the victims’ families to persevere and overcome their unspeakable anguish and profound grief. May G-d comfort the Yifrach, Shaar, and Frenkel families among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.