The Israeli government has confirmed reports initially surfacing at the Associated Press and the New York Times that the bodies of three Israeli teenagers reported missing earlier this month have been found. The Israeli cabinet is conducting an emergency meeting on the matter.
Officials are confident that they have found the bodies of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, who went missing in the West Bank earlier this month. Frenkel, a U.S. Citizen, and Shaar were 16 years old; Yifrach was 19. “They know it’s the three, they will know for sure after they do the autopsy,” said an Israeli official to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity. He noted that the children appear to have been killed close to the time of kidnapping and had gunshot wounds. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper added that the Israeli government was officially conducting a media blackout until all the details were confirmed.
Shortly after the newspapers wrote reports of the discovery of the teens’ bodies, the Israeli government confirmed that the search was over. In an official statement, deputy defense minister Danny Danon confirmed their murders and that Hamas was responsible. “I was filled with deep sadness upon hearing of the murders of Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach by Hamas terrorists,” he said, calling for an operation aimed at “eradicating Hamas.”
The kidnappings prompted international attention and demand for a thorough search to find the boys, as well as a social media campaign titled “Bring Back our Boys,” modeled after the campaign for the Nigerian girls kidnapped by radical Islamist group Boko Haram.
The search was hindered by several skirmishes with Palestinians in the West Bank, some of whom took to the streets to celebrate the kidnappings and others which directly interfered with police work by Israeli officials in the area seeking to find any evidence as to where the boys may have been taken. Rallies internationally were also attacked as opponents of the Israeli state prevented those seeking awareness of the plight of the three boys from fully exercising their liberty to call for the world to notice.
Last week, Israeli officials revealed that they had narrowed the search down to two suspects affiliated with the terrorist organization Hamas. Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, both known members of Hamas, had not been seen in their home since June 12, the day of the kidnappings. They were also suspected to have been seen in the car in which the teens were allegedly abducted. Israeli officials have not given any indication that they have found the whereabouts of either suspect, and no sources have told the media that they are in captivity or close to being captured.