Israel: ‘Hamas responsible for kidnappings, murders’
After the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were abducted on June 12, Israel intensified its strikes to Hamas, blaming the Palestinian Islamist group for the abduction and killings. “We see Hamas responsible for the kidnappings and murders. We will continue to pursue the murderers of the teens and will not rest until we lay our hands on them,” Defence Minister Moshe Yaalo said in a statement today.
Israel bombed dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip today, striking at Hamas. The military said aircraft attacked 34 sites, mostly belonging to Hamas, though its statement did not link the strikes to the abductions. Palestinian medics said two people were slightly wounded. The military cited 18 Palestinian rockets launched against Israel from Gaza in the past two days.
The Israeli security cabinet, which held an emergency session late yesterday and was due to meet again today, was split on the scope of any further action in the coastal enclave or in the occupied West Bank, officials said. The United Nations, the United States and regional power-broker Egypt urged restraint.
At the security cabinet meeting, the army proposed "considered and moderate actions" against militants in the West Bank, officials said. Any sustained campaign there could undermine U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But the cabinet did not agree on a future course of action at that session, officials added. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against going too far. "The response of the resistance has been limited, and Netanyahu must not test Hamas's patience," said Abu Zuhri, whose group's arsenal includes rockets that can reach Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised Hamas would pay after the discovery of the three Jewish seminary students' bodies under rocks near the West Bank city of Hebron yesterday. "They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts ... Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay," he said in a statement.
The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the disappearance of the students as they hitchhiked near a Jewish settlement on June 12 nor in the cross-border rocket salvoes from Gaza.
The funerals of Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19 were due to take place later today in the Israeli city of Modi'in, where they were to be buried side-by-side.
The kidnapping appalled Israelis who rallied behind the youngsters' families in a display of national unity.