Tags: Israel | Palestinians | conflict | kidnapping

Israel Mulls Hamas Response as Slain Teens Laid to Rest

Image: Israel Mulls Hamas Response as Slain Teens Laid to Rest
The bodies of Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Ifrach are laid side-by-side during their funeral on July 1 in the cemetery of Modiin in central Israel.

Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 09:15 AM

Israel is weighing how it will strike back at Hamas militants it holds responsible for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers who were laid to rest in an emotional farewell.

The disappearance of Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Ifrach, from a roadside in the southern West Bank on June 12 and the hunt for their kidnappers has gripped the Israeli public, triggering an outpouring of public grief and anger.

The drama drew took a tragic turn on Monday when troops uncovered three bodies in a field in the West Bank.

All three had been shot in a triple murder blamed on militants from the Islamist Hamas movement.

Twenty-four hours later, tens of thousands of mourners from across the country packed into the cemetery in Modiin in central Israel to pay their last respects at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

"I know the pain of mourning. There is nothing worse than that," said Netanyahu as he stood by the three coffins, each draped with a blue and white Israeli flag.

Israel has vowed to hunt down the killers, and the security cabinet meet for a second night to discuss how to deal with Hamas, officials said.

Netanyahu warned at a defense ministry meeting in Tel Aviv late Tuesday that Israel would expand its bombing campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza, after striking dozens of sites belonging to the group the previous night.

The military "has been active in recent days against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip... if need be, we will expand the campaign," he said, adding that an operation against Hamas in the West Bank would continue in tandem.

On Tuesday evening, five rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip hit southern Israel without causing any damage, the Israeli army said.

A string of hardline MPs and ministers in Israel have called for giving a crushing blow to Hamas, but ministers are reported to be sharply at odds over the right course of action.

An Israeli official told AFP that Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon had suggested a "measured" military response, and Netanyahu was inclined to accept his position.

He also proposed turning a former West Bank army base into a new Jewish settlement in the teens' memory, the official said, confirming a report by Haaretz newspaper.

"We know how to settle accounts with Hamas. We will not rest until we lay our hands on them," Yaalon said.

Hamas in turn has warned any Israeli attack would "open the gates of hell".

 

 

At the funerals of the four young men there were no calls for bloodshed or revenge.

"I managed to speak to you just before you set off home. I heard your peaceful and loving voice... and now you've come home to us," said Ofir Shaer, addressing his son Gilad, his voice hoarse with emotion.

"Now Mum and I are facing the biggest challenge of our lives."

The story has received almost blanket coverage in Israel since the three students disappeared, with thousands of people turning out for a mass prayer session at the Western Wall in the Old City, and again in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

The teens were likely shot dead soon after they were picked up, with their bodies buried in a field near Halhul, just 10 minutes from where they were last seen.

There has never been any credible claim of responsibility for the abductions, and Hamas has described Israel's accusations as "stupid".

The White House Tuesday backed Israel's claims that the Islamist group is responsible for the killings, but also called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to preserve security cooperation.

"There is an important security relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority... We hope that that spirit of cooperation, even in the midst of this very difficult time, will continue," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

The UN Security Council issued a statement also calling for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to bring to justice those responsible for this "heinous act".

Two Hamas men named by Israel as the prime suspects — Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe — remain at large, although troops blew up their homes on Tuesday, witnesses said.

Since June 12, Israel has arrested 419 Palestinians, two thirds of them Hamas members, and six Palestinians have been killed in clashes triggered by the operation.

London-based rights group Amnesty International slammed Israel's vast arrest campaign.

"The murder of three abducted Israeli teens deserves justice," it said in a statement.

But it said the West Bank operation amounted to "collective punishment of Palestinians" and "blatant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law."

© AFP 2017

 
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MiddleEast
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at a defense ministry meeting in Tel Aviv late Tuesday that Israel would expand its bombing campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza, after striking dozens of sites belonging to the group the previous night.
Israel, Palestinians, conflict, kidnapping
771
2014-15-02
Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 09:15 AM
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