Between Israel And Hamas, 3 Killed Teens Escalate Tensions
Three Israeli teens who have been missing since June 12 — including one who is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen — were found killed in the West Bank. Israel blames Hamas and is expected to take action against the militant group. Daniel Estrin talks to Melissa Block from Jerusalem.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. The bodies of three people believed to be kidnapped Israeli teenagers have been found in the West Bank. The three boys including one dual U.S.-Israeli citizen have been missing since June 12. Israel blamed the Hamas militant group for the teen's disappearance and launched a sweeping search through Palestinian neighborhoods arresting hundreds of people and killing at least four. After the bodies were found today, Israeli officials vowed to take more action against Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of his top security officials. We're joined now by reporter Daniel Estrin, who's in Jerusalem and Daniel what more can you tell us about the discovery today of these three bodies?
DANIEL ESTRIN: Well the three bodies were found in an open field Northwest of Hebron which is in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli soldiers and Israeli civilian volunteers found the bodies under a pile of rocks. In a telephone briefing a spokesman from the Israeli army said the bodies are now undergoing a forensic investigation, so officials can't officially identified the bodies yet but they are indeed believed to be the three missing teens. There have been reports on Israeli television that the bodies were found with gunshot wounds, but the Army wouldn't immediately comment on that.
BLOCK: And what's known about how the boys disappeared?
ESTRIN: Well just about two weeks of the three teens went missing and not much is known about how they disappeared. Their names are Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaae and Naftali Fraenkel, the dual American-Israeli citizen. They went missing when they were hitchhiking from their religious school in a Jewish settlement going back home. Hitchhiking is a common practice for Israelis in the West Bank. Of course Palestinians object to the West Bank settlements which are built on territory Israel captured in war and territory that they claim for a future state. But evens so Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, called for the Israeli teens to be freed. He has said that whoever abducted them was trying to undermine his government, the Palestinian Authority and actually Palestinian security forces helped Israel in the search for these teens.
BLOCK: We mentioned in, you know, the huge security operation by Israel when they were searching for these boys and the vow to take more action against Hamas now that these bodies have been found. What might that mean?
ESTRIN: Well Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by wild beasts. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay. What that means we're waiting to find out, the deputy defense minister vowed that Israel will, quote, "eradicate Hamas." He said his country was ready for a long-lasting operation and the Army is still searching for the two Palestinians, the two prime suspects who Israel police carried out the kidnapping.
BLOCK: Daniel this all came about a month after the collapse of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. What are the political implications, long-term, of this news?
ESTRIN: Well, Israel has been saying that the Palestinian Authority needs to break up its new power-sharing deal between the mainstream Fatah faction and Hamas. The Israeli prime minister says the Palestinian president cannot be a partner for peace if his new government is backed by Hamas, which he says the kidnappers are affiliated with. They were calling on that before the kidnapping but Israeli officials have increased that pressure since. The Palestinian president says his new government is committed to peace and no Hamas members are actually in the new government. But as for an Israeli response to the deaths of these teens, local media report that some ministers are pushing Netanyahu to declare more settlement building, which Israel did in 2011, when a Palestinian attacker killed a Jewish settler family in the West Bank. So we might be seeing more settlement coming out of this.
BLOCK: OK, Daniel Thank you.
ESTRIN: You're welcome.
BLOCK: That's reporter Daniel Estrin, in a restaurant in Jerusalem. The news again, that the bodies of three people, believed to be the missing Israeli teenagers, have been found in the West Bank. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.