The bodies of three Israeli teenagers who disappeared in the West Bank more than two weeks ago were found Monday in an field north of Hebron, ending a massive search operation that was accompanied by a volley of accusations between Israeli and Palestinian government officials.
In the weeks after the disappearance, Israeli forces swept through Palestinian towns and cities in search of the missing teens and those who took them, arresting hundreds and killing five in the process. The Israeli government accused Hamas of coordinating the kidnapping, and said it would hold President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who recently struck a reconciliation deal with Hamas, responsible as well.
"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth," said President Obama in a statement.
The bodies found were those of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19. The three disappeared while they were returning home from a yeshiva—a religious school—in the West Bank. Fraenkel is a U.S. citizen.
"The entire nation is bowing its head with unbearable sorrow this evening," Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a statement. "Over the past 18 days the nation prayed as one that the fate of our wonderful teenagers would be that they are found alive and well. Now that the bitter news has come, the entire Israeli nation mourns the premature death of our finest youth."