Twelve days into the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens, Israel’s security forces have made no breakthrough, an Israeli army spokesman acknowledged on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking to The Times of Israel as the cabinet voted to scale down the operation, spokesman Peter Lerner stressed that “we expect the mission [to find the three teens] to continue,” and reiterated that Israel was certain that Hamas was behind the June 12 abduction. But despite almost two weeks of a feverish hunt for Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar, as a top priority both for the intelligence hierarchy and for forces on the ground, “we’ve not had a breakthrough in either area.”
He said Operation Brother’s Keeper, which has seen some 350 alleged terrorists arrested in the West Bank, most of them Hamas members, was also aimed at making clear to Palestinian terror groups “that it isn’t in their interests to do this,” and noted that the security forces’ focus on Hamas also encompassed “the civilian organizations through which Hamas recruits” its members.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon declared on Tuesday that it was “only a matter of time” before the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found. And military sources noted that 64 kidnap attempts had been thwarted in the past 18 months. The June 12 kidnapping evidently involved considerable sophistication and pre-planning, said one official, noting that it was “unprecedented” to have three Israelis abducted by terrorists, “but we get them all in the end.”
While acknowledging the precedents of Israelis seized in the West Bank being killed by their abductors, the sources reiterated that the IDF’s working assumption is that the three are alive, and said that the nature and scale of the search “reflects that belief and hope.”