On Monday of this week, the bodies of the three missing teenagers were recovered by the Israeli military just over two weeks after they were taken in the West bank which ended the frantic search that led to Israel’s largest ground operation in the Palestinian territory in a decade and drew Israeli threats of retaliation, according to Josef Federman and Ian Deitch (Israel Launches Airstrikes In Gaza After Rockets Reportedly Fired, Bodies Of Teens Found In West Bank). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that “Hama is responsible and Hamas will pay” referring to the Islamic militant group accused of carrying out the kidnappings. He further commented at an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet that the teenagers “were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals.” Early Tuesday, Israel carried out airstrikes in Gaza striking 34 targets across the Hamas controlled area. The military said the strikes were in response to the 18 rockets fired into Israel since last Sunday. No casualties of yet have been reported. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman comments that “the IDF will continue to act in order to restore the peaceful living to the civilians of the state of Israel. The Hamas terror organization and its extensions are solely responsible for any terror activities emanating from the Gaza Strip.” The kidnapping has put Netanyahu in a difficult position, as public outrage over the deaths has provided widespread support to strike Hamas, the two week crackdown on the group has limited the number of new targets and many leaders internationally are calling for restraint.
News of the teen’s deaths prompted a public outpouring of grief late Monday with large crowds rushing to the homes of the families in the central Israeli towns of Nof Ayalon and Elad, and the West Bank settlement of Talmon with supporters lighting candles and praying. President Shimon Peres said, “All of Israel bows its head today.” While thousands have died in wars and militant attacks in Israel over the years and Israel has dealt with the kidnappings of soldiers in the past, the ages of the victims who were unarmed civilians struck a nerve. Israel has yet to provide direct evidence that Hamas was involved in the kidnappings, even though the group has not taken responsibility for them, Hamas has praised the kidnappings as it frequently encourages its members to kidnap Israelis in order to force a release of its members from Israeli prisons.
The news of their deaths also received condemnations from around the world. The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the Pope in May visited the region to share in the families “unspeakable pain.” In Washington, President Barack Obama sent his deepest sympathies to the families saying, “As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing.” In addition, he urged all parties to refrain from taking steps that would destabilize the situation further. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a similar remark and urged both sides to “refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation.”
With few options, Israel could turn its attention to the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip where Israel has been battling heavy rocket fire. However, strong political action could be considered as Netanyahu has urged Abbas to disband a unity government recently formed with Hamas’ backing. In addition, Israeli media has suggested that Israel might consider deporting Hamas leaders in the West Bank to Gaza. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri in Gaza has warned against any sort of offensive saying that the Gaza militants would unleash a heavy barrage of rockets at Israel. He stated that “Netanyahu should know that threats don’t scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him.” Abbas has condemned the kidnappings and his forces coordinated with Israel during the search for the teens, however, he has refused to terminate the unity government which ended the seven year rift with Hamas. A spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, for the Palestinian president said that a meeting of the Palestinian leadership to discuss the events happened on Tuesday. An adviser to Abbas, Abdallah Abdallah, said, “We want peace to be created in this part of the world so no mother or no family will be bereaved for the loss of their beloved ones, Palestinian or Israeli.”