Social media networks have persistently been the staging ground for many Israelis’ concerns over three teens kidnapped south of Jerusalem in the West Bank on Thursday night. In some cases, however, the impact is highly negative.
On Monday, the Israel Police announced it would launch an investigation into false rumors circulating on the popular messaging service Whatsapp that suggested the three boys, Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar, were found dead.
The rumors followed other rumors at the start of the weekend that wrongly claimed the opposite: that the boys were released alive.
“With great sorrow, journalists have discovered terrible news that they cannot yet publicize about the deaths of the three kidnapped boys,” a widely-circulated WhatsApp message read. “According to sources, the three boys struggled against their Arab captors and were shot dead. The remains of bullets and burnt skullcaps were found in the abandoned car,” a reference to a burnt-out vehicle located by security services outside Hebron that is believed to have been used in the abduction.
The message added that a rabbi by the name of Hanania Cholek had arrived at the home of the Yifrach family “to deliver the bitter news.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit issued a statement as the reports spread, clarifying that “rumors regarding the fate of the kidnapped boys that have been published in recent hours are unsubstantiated and irresponsible. The only reliable information is what comes from the IDF Spokesman. The IDF Spokesman asks the public to behave responsibly and not take part in promoting these false rumors.”
Sixteen-year-old Frankel, Yifrach, 19, and Shaar, 16, were last seen at a hitchhiking post in the Etzion bloc Thursday night. Israel has said Hamas was responsible for their abduction.