Israel Strikes Gaza Hours After Kidnapped Teens Are Found Dead

Within hours of learning that three Israeli teenagers had been found dead and the prime minister vowed to seek retribution against Hamas, Israeli forces launched a series of air strikes on Gaza.

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Within hours of learning that three Israeli teenagers had been found dead and the prime minister vowed to seek retribution against Hamas, Israeli forces launched a series of air strikes on Gaza.

Officially, the Israel Defense Forces say that the attacks on 34 "terror targets" were retaliation for earlier rocket attacks launched from Gaza into southern Israel. There are no reports of deaths in either attacks, but tensions have escalated across the regions since the three teenagers were first reported missing.

Over in the West Bank, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians after moving into the town of Jenin to make arrests. One Palestinian teenager was reportedly killed in the fighting. (Update: The AP reports that the Palestinian was actually a Hamas member who was killed after throwing a grenade at Israeli forces. The IDF also knocked down the homes of the two main suspects, whose whereabouts are unknown.)

"Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the bodies of the three Jewish teenagers were found in the West Bank. The boys — Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel, aged 16 to 19 — were hitchhiking home from their yeshivas when they went missing. Their bodies were found with multiple bullet wounds after an 18-day search. Frankel hold dual Israeli-American citizenship.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri denied any association with these kidnappings and murders. "Israel is attempting to make way for aggression against us, against the Hamas," said Zuhri, "We reject all Israeli allegations and threats against us. We are already used to it and will know how to defend ourselves."

President Obama sent his condolences to the families of the teenagers and said, "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth." Obama expressed hopes Israel and Palestine would work together to find the murderers. 

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency believes the boys were shot shortly after they were abducted, and then "the bodies were dumped in haste and covered quickly." A civilian search party found the bodies after they "saw something suspicious on the ground, plants that looked out of place, moved them and moved some rocks and then found the bodies." 

Israel's Shin Bet security service believes the kidnappers were two Palestinians with ties to Hamas. Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme both disappeared around the time of the kidnapping, and are currently suspects in the case.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.