Israelis Mourn Murder of Kidnapped Teens

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israelis are mourning the murder of three abducted Israeli teenagers after their bodies were found in the West Bank on Monday evening.

Israeli troops discovered the bodies of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Frenkel -- a dual Israeli-American citizen -- in a shallow grave near the West Bank city of Halhoul after an exhaustive search that lasted nearly three weeks.  

Terrorist kidnappers abducted the teens as they waited for a ride home from school on June 12.

Grieving Israelis took to the streets to memorialize the teens, lighting memorial candles and singing religious songs.

The nightmare gripped the nation for 18 days -- partly because they could have been anyone's kids. 

Their names and faces became part of every family as Israel mounted a massive military search in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Israelis and millions around the world hoped and prayed for their safe return. 

But Israel's Security Agency, the Shin Bet, said Monday the three were murdered shortly after being kidnapped. A burning car found by the roadside the day after the incident provided clues.

Netanyahu Holds Hamas Responsible 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the abduction. 

"They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals," Netanyahu said in a statement after the teens' bodies were found.

"We will give the boys a proper burial," said Netanyahu.

Then he paraphrased a famous Hebrew poet, Haim Nahman Bialik, "'Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created,'" Netanyahu said.  And then he added, "neither has vengeance for the blood of three pure youths, who were on their way home to meet their parents, who will not see them anymore."

'Hamas is responsible -- and Hamas will pay," the prime minister said.

Despite the tragedy some say the attack was no surprise.

"The Palestinian Authority has a long history of relentless incitement to hatred and violence against Jews and against Israelis and then you have this pact that President Abbas signed with Hamas," Dr. Jonathan Schachter, senior advisor to Netanyahu, told CBN News. "You have an increase in Hamas activity, including terrorist activity in the West Bank and the progression is unfortunately very natural."

Schachter said that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas must break his alliance with Hamas.

"You cannot on the one hand say that you want peace with Israel and on the other hand embrace Hamas, which is a terrorist organization, committed to Israel's destruction, whose charter says there's no solution to the Palestinian question except for jihad. These two things don't go together," Schachter said.

Abbas appealed to the international community to restrain Israel in its response.  An advisor to Abbas said the Palestinians were sorry for what happened.

"[The] loss of lives, whether Israeli or Palestinian, we regret that and we feel sorry for it," said Abdallah Abdallah.  "We wanted 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."

Netanyahu: Hamas Will Pay

As the search for the murderers continued, it wasn't clear what Israel's response would include. But Netanyahu pledged that Hamas would pay for the murders.

Hamas denied that it was involved in the abductions.  But the terrorist group has been involved in such actions in the past and openly encourages kidnappings.  Hamas, which recently agreed to a unity pact with Abbas' Fatah faction, vowed to open "the gates of hell" against any Israeli response.

The Israeli Air Force struck 34 targets in Gaza overnight, it said, in response to the firing of 18 rockets on Israeli communities.  Hamas has ramped up its launching of rockets at Israel since the teens were abducted prompting an Israeli response. 

Over the weekend, two rockets struck a paint factory in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, burning it up.

Schachter said Israel has a wide range of options for dealing with Hamas, including "political options, diplomatic options, military options." 

Some Israelis are calling for the complete dismantling of Hamas.

Many Israelis feel the world just doesn't get it when it comes to their situation.  While part of the world warned Israel against a "disproportionate reaction," one analyst, wondered what a correct response would be.

"As if there is a proportionate reaction to three boys stolen and murdered for no other reason than they were Jews," Herb Keinon wrote in the Jerusalem Post. "What, exactly, would constitute a 'proportionate' reaction?" he asked.

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Julie Stahl and Chris Mitchell

Julie Stahl and Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau

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