TERRORISTS are behind the abduction of three teenagers, including an American, who disappeared in the West Bank, Israel’s prime minister said yesterday.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu again blamed the Palestinian authority for the Thursday night disappearance of the teenagers. Palestinian officials say they are assisting Israeli forces, who pored over surveillance footage yesterday and arrested more than a dozen Palestinians.
There have been at least three claims of responsibility for the abduction, though none could be immediately verified.
Netanyahu made a televised address last night after meeting security officials, saying Israeli forces were conducting “intensive operations” to bring the teenagers home.
“Our children were kidnapped by a terror group,” he said. “There is no doubt about that.”
Netanyahu said he directed Israel’s security branches to use all means at their disposal to find the teenagers and “prevent the possibility of their transfer to the Gaza Strip or anywhere else”.
The Israeli military identified the teenagers as Naftali Frenkel, 16; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Israeli television named Frenkel as the US citizen that officials earlier mentioned. They were reportedly hitchhiking home when they were abducted.
Their kidnapping would be the biggest abduction of its kind by Palestinian militant groups in recent memory in the West Bank.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions were strained already in part because of the recent formation of a Palestinian unity government that has the backing of the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Hamas, branded a terror group by the West for its attacks aimed at civilians, has been involved in kidnappings of Israelis in the past. The group routinely claims responsibility if involved in an attack, but has not claimed it took the teenagers.