UK & World News

  • 15 June 2014, 21:03

Israel Blames Hamas For Kidnapping Teenagers

Israel has blamed Hamas militants for the abduction of three teenagers in the occupied West Bank, as it detained dozens of Palestinians in connection with the search.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuthreatened "serious consequences" unless the trio, who reportedlywent missing while hitch-hiking on Thursday, were found safe.

"Those who carried out the kidnapping of our youngsters are Hamas people," hetold his cabinet on Sunday.

They are 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel, a US passport holder from Nof Ayalon, and Gilad Shaar, from Telman, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach, from Elad.

All three are students at a Yeshiva, or religious school, in Gush Etzion, a Jewish settlement bloc just south of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Mr Netanyahusaid the alleged abductions were the result of this month's power-sharing deal between the Palestinian factions of Hamas and Fatah.

There has been no public claim of responsibility.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied the group, which runs the Gaza Strip, was involved, and called the Israeli PM's comments "stupid".

US Secretary of State John Kerry also pointed the finger at Hamas, saying there were "many indications" of the group's involvement and noting it had previously carried out kidnappings.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he "strongly condemned" the abduction and appealed for "urgent action" from anyone in a position to secure their release.

Troops, helicopters and drones have been deployed across the West Bank in an effort to find the teenagers.

Checkpoints have been set up on roads throughout the southern West Bank, in particular around the city of Hebron and the surrounding area.

Israeli soldiers are believed to have carried out raids in the nearby villages of Dura, al-Samu, Tarqumia, and Beit Kahil.

Around 80 Palestinians were detained overnight by the Israeli military.

Palestinian officials say more than 100 people have now been taken into custody, including at least seven Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament and several prisoners recently released by Israel.

NaftaliFrankel's mother, Rachel, said in a televised statement outside the family home: "Naftali, your dad and mom and siblings love you endlessly, and you should know that the people of Israel are turning the world upside down to bring you home."

Diplomatic sources have told Sky News they have received solid assurances that the security and intelligence forces of the Palestinian Authority are working closely with their Israeli counterparts to establish the whereabouts of the missing teenagers.