The worst possible news has just been announced after a couple of hours of rumours flying around Israel: the bodies of the three kidnapped boys, Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shayer and Naftali Frenkel were discovered near Halhoul, in the Hebron area:
Israeli searchers on Monday discovered the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, who were abducted on June 12, north of Hebron in the West Bank.
The bodies were found in an area between Halhul and Karmei Tzur on Monday afternoon. Israeli security forces, which had been conducting extensive searches in the area, sealed off the area and declared it a closed military zone. Hebron was also sealed off.
A search team from the local Kfar Etzion field school, along with IDF soldiers from an elite unit, found the teens. The local volunteers had been asking for two weeks to join the search.
Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped on the night of June 12 at a hitchhiking post outside the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem.
The bodies were found at about 5 p.m., bound and partially buried, in an open field in a hard to access area known as Wadi Tellem. The site was less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where the teens had been abducted.
The three Israeli teenagers had been killed soon after their abduction, and the bodies were apparently disposed of hurriedly. The bodies were not in a good condition when they were found, Channel 2 said. “It was a harrowing sight.”
Forensic experts identified the bodies at the scene. The bodies were flown to the Abu Kabir Institute for Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv on Monday evening for definitive identification. Israelis placed mourning candles outside the institute later Monday night.
Israel’s security cabinet convened in emergency session. Among other decisions, it was expected to demand that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sever his unity government partnership with Hamas.
Israeli authorities on Thursday had named two Hamas members as prime suspects in the kidnapping.
The two, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping took place. The two were allegedly in the car in which the three were abducted.
The two were still at large on Monday night, and Israel’s security forces were making intensive efforts to track them down.
IDF troops surrounded the homes of the two suspects late on Monday evening.
Hamas leaders in the Hebron area were reported to have made themselves scarce, anticipating that they would be sought by the security forces. Hamas has not taken responsibility for the kidnapping and killings; a Hamas spokesman was quoted warning on Monday night that “any Israeli response will open the gates of hell.”
IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz was in the Halhul area, overseeing the ongoing operation.
Hamas officials in Hebron confirmed the two suspects were members, and said Israeli troops had targeted the men’s homes since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper. The officials said troops had entered the homes several times, conducting intense searches and confiscating items as evidence.
Those removed from their posts include the head of the operations branch of the Judea and Samaria district, the deputy head of district operations, the head of the police control center where the call was handled, and the shift leader responsible for supervising the dispatch center that night.
During the 2:09 call, which was received at 10:25 pm on June 12th, a single voice can be heard whispering “they kidnapped me” after which he goes silent. The call was not given the proper urgency or handed over to security services until nearly five hours later, when one of the boy’s parents reported him missing to police.
Despite that, the call was apparently perceived as being important, because the supervisor at the Judea and Samaria District Police dispatch station made a total of 8 attempts to call the number the call was placed on. Seven of these were after the line went out, and of these, 5 went directly to voicemail.
The handling of the call represented a severe failure “that ran along along the entire chain of command at the center, crossing a series of police, officers, and commanders,” police said Monday.
The prevailing assessment within the defense establishment is that the kidnappers, at least at first, only saw one of the hitchikers, perhaps Yifrach, who did not know Shaar and Fraenkel. Only once the kidnappers’ Hyundai i35 came to a stop did the kidnappers realize that they would be outnumbered by their hostages within the small confines of the car. This may be what changed the nature of the crime from kidnapping to murder, security sources suggested.
Inside the Hyundai, Israel alleges, were Hamas terrorists Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme.
Recognizing, too late, that the car was not an innocent Israeli vehicle, one of the teens called the police at 10:25 p.m. and whispered, “We’ve been kidnapped.” The call was transferred immediately to a senior female officer, who continued to ask questions but received no reply. The call lasted for 2:09 minutes and was then cut off. The officer called the number eight more times, but received three busy signals and reached voicemail five times.
The kidnappers, apparently realizing that a call had been made, shot the three teens dead soon afterwards in the backseat of the car, military sources said.
Early assessments by some regarding the professionalism of the terrorists appear to have been misplaced: the killers seem to have panicked. The three teens did not fulfill the role Hamas sought for them, security officials indicated, to serve as bargaining chips that would free thousands of Palestinians prisoners and promote the Hamas brand throughout the West Bank.
The killers then drove a further 10 minutes or so before switching vehicles. They abandoned the Hyundai i35, a relatively new vehicle, and set it on fire.
They transferred the bodies to the second vehicle, and drove close to the field in the Halhul area where the three corpses were ultimately discovered, bound, partially buried, and in what eyewitnesses said was “in not good condition,” on Monday afternoon. The land where the bodies were found belongs to the Kawasme family, Channel 2 news reported.
The tragic irony is that the police’s snafu might very well have saved the boys – if the terrorists had only realised how incompetent our police really are:
Unbeknownst to the killers, the emergency call had not prompted an alert by Israel’s security forces. The senior officer did not pass on the information to her superiors or listen to the recording for further evidence, concluding that it was a prank call. The security forces realized there had been a kidnapping, and began what became an 18-day search operation, only some seven hours later.
Assuming that they were being hunted down right away, the kidnappers quickly abandoned the three bodies, and made their escape.
BuzzFeed spoke to an Israeli official involved in the case, who confirmed that during the police call a gunshot can clearly be heard. The car, he added, had clear evidence of foul play. Over the last week. Israeli soldiers could be seen digging through rocks and dredging wells in Hebron in the search for the teens.
“We have been operating, for some time now, with evidence that these boys were killed,” he said. “It is with a heavy heart that we realized we were looking for bodies.”
“With a heavy heart, we have found tonight three bodies, and all of the information we have indicates that these are the bodies of the abductees – Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali,” Netanyahu began.
“They were murdered in cold blood by human animals,” he said. “In the name of the entire Jewish people, I want to say to the dear families – mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers – our hearts are bleeding. We are crying with you.”
“We will bring the boys home to be buried in Israel,” he continued.
“Revenge over the blood of a small child is not the devil’s work, and neither is revenge for the blood of a teenager or young man – who was on his way to meet his parents – and whom was never seen again,” he added. “Hamas is responsible. Hamas will pay.”
“May the boys’ memories be for a blessing.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres also issued a response Monday night, expressing his solidarity and grief.
“An entire nation bows its head in unbearable grief this evening,” Peres stated. “I embrace and grasp the hands of the mothers and fathers of Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad, who devoted their lives to raising their children.”
“For 18 days, the people prayed in unison that we would find these boys alive and healthy,” Peres continued. “Now, upon receiving the news, all of Israel mourns their untimely deaths.”
“As we mourn, we must punish these terrorist criminals,” he added.
Hamas had the chutzpah to warn Israel against reacting to the murders or else they “will open the gates of Hell” – i.e. “We’re going to murder you and don’t you dare defend yourselves or retaliate”. Don’t those barbarians realize they have already opened the gates of Hell – upon themselves.
The Palestinians showed themselves as the monsters they really are by stoning the ambulance that removed the boys’ bodies! (from the Muqata’s facebook page, h/t Israel Matzav). Once again I wonder how on earth we are supposed to deal with un-humans like that. They are so distorted and blinded by hate that they cannot even let us bury our dead in peace.
Politicians on both the right and the left expressed their rage and sorrow at the murder and were calling for a strong IDF response.
So what is the army and government going to do about the murder? The good news is that the army has been given the go-ahead to “shoot first, ask questions later”:
Residents of the Halhoul area were rioting Monday night, throwing rocks and bricks at IDF soldiers who are searching for the murderers of the three teens, whose bodies were found bound and buried in a shallow grave nearby.
IDF officials told Channel One that even though the bodies of the teens have been found, Operation Brother’s Keeper has not ended.
Analysts have said, in fact, that it was possible that the IDF would take a “wider approach” to security-related issues in the area.
“Until now, the working assumption was that be boys were alive, so they were careful when they entered buildings and caves, in case the youths were there together with the terrorists,” said a Channel One political analyst. “I can tell you for a fact that that is over. Since tonight, the default mode for soldiers is to first shoot and ask questions later,” the analyst said. “There is now nothing to stop the army, since the youths were found murdered.”
However, priorities must be kept and the army are worried about other baddies too – namely graffiti painting teenagers. Oh, the horror!
Meanwhile, among the major concerns among security officials on Monday night in the wake of the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens is the fear that Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria will engage in “price tag attacks” against Palestinians. Sources in the army, Channel One reported Monday night, said that the security cabinet was set to discuss how to deal with possible “revenge attacks” by Jews furious at the murders of Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Gilad Sha’ar (16) by terrorists.
While France and Britain sharply condemned the murders of Israeli teen kidnap victims Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Gilad Sha’ar (16), the US limited itself to a tepid “condemnation of violence” that appeared to apply equally to Israelis and Palestinians. In the statement, the White House said that it “condemned the violence that has taken the lives of innocent civilians.”
In its own statement, the State Department said that the murders were a “tragedy,” but called on “both sides to maintain patience and restraint.” The statement also urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue their security cooperation.