Middle East

Israel vows to find killers of teenagers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (3rd R, front) and his wife Sara (2nd R, front), Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon (3rd L, front) and President Shimon Peres (R, front) attend the joint funeral of the three Israeli teens who were abducted and killed in the occupied West Bank, in the Israeli city of Modein, 1 July 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third right, front) vowed strong action against Hamas

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to find those behind the kidnap and murder of three teenagers hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank.

He also promised strong action against Palestinian militant group Hamas, which he blamed for the killings. Hamas denies any involvement.

The teenagers' bodies were found, more than two weeks after they went missing.

The body of a Palestinian was found in East Jerusalem on Wednesday hours after reports of an abduction.

Israeli police are investigating if it is the same person - and if the incident is connected to the case of the three Israeli teenagers.

Israel's security cabinet met twice after the bodies of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were found under a pile of rocks near the Palestinian town of Halhul.

An Israeli official said it appeared the youths had been shot soon after their abduction.

Thousands turned up to the funeral of the three youths on Tuesday in Modein.

'Punishing a nation'

Mr Netanyahu said: "Whoever was involved in the kidnapping and the murder will bear the consequences."

He said the priorities were to:

  • find the teenagers' killers and kidnappers
  • weaken Hamas' infrastructure and manpower in the West Bank
  • operate against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, expanding the operation "if the need arises"

Correspondents say the cabinet has been split over next steps, with some ministers calling for wider military action and others warning against aggravating tensions.

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Media captionThousands gathered around Modein cemetery, as the BBC's Yolande Knell reports

Israeli troops entered Halhul after the youths' bodies were discovered, blockading some areas.

Soldiers raided the homes of two Hamas members named as suspects - Marwan Qawasmeh, and Amer Abu Aisha - and detonated explosives.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, told the BBC that Israel's response was heavy handed.

"You cannot sort of use every development like this in order to punish a whole nation, which is what Israel has been doing," she said.

"In the month of June alone, 14 Palestinians were killed... by the Israeli occupation."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thousands attended the funeral for the three teenagers
Image copyright AP
Image caption Attendees listened to the parents of the three youths read eulogies for their sons
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting over the deaths

Meanwhile, the US described the killing of the youths as a "terrible, terroristic act".

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "Both sides have to exercise restraint, to prevent this one terrible act from leading to a much broader, much more destabilising situation."

Analysis: Yolande Knell, BBC News, Modein

There were no demands for revenge and retribution at the funeral; the grieving parents sticking to heartfelt messages of their loss and loving recollections of their sons.

However Israel has already vowed that it will make Hamas pay a high price for the students' deaths.

Some ministers called for wider Israeli military action against Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while others pressed the case for more measured steps to avoid a dangerous flare-up in tensions.

One proposal has been to build a new settlement in the West Bank in honour of the dead Israelis.

Such a move would be highly controversial; settlements are seen as illegal under international law, although Israel disagrees.

Grief and anger after Israel teenager deaths

'I was kidnapped'

Earlier, Israeli media released a recording of the emergency call made to police by one of the teenagers shortly after the abduction.

A voice, thought to be that of Gilad Shaar, is heard saying "I was kidnapped", followed by another voice shouting "Head down!".

Police have confirmed the recording is authentic. The call was initially dismissed as a hoax, delaying the search efforts.

The disappearance of the teenagers on 12 June sparked a huge search operation in Palestinian towns and cities across the West Bank.

More than 400 Palestinians were arrested, while five were killed by Israeli troops.

Mr Netanyahu has said the incident is a consequence of "the partnership" between Hamas, which rejects Israel's right to exist, and Mr Abbas' Fatah movement.

The two signed a reconciliation deal in April after years of division and formed a unity government last month.