“These teenagers were kidnapped and the kidnapping was carried out by Hamas members,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, referring to the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, Reutersreported.
Gilad Shaar, 16; Naftali Frenkel, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19 — all seminary students in a Jewish settlement bloc — disappeared on Thursday, apparently while hitchhiking. Earlier reports said Naftali is a dual Israeli-American citizen, but Israeli and U.S. officials have not publicly confirmed it.
“The arrest campaign made by the Israeli occupation in the West Bank is targeted to break the backbone of Hamas and bring it down, but the Israelis will not succeed in achieving their goal,” he said, CNN reported.
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry called for the immediate release of the boys.
“We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas‘ involvement,” he said in a written statement on Sunday, CNN reported. “As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past.”
The Israeli army has carried out house-to-house searches and round-ups, detaining around 80 suspects overnight.