A Palestinian terror group aligned with the Fatah movement claimed responsibility Monday for the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, saying the boys were safe and that it would prove this soon.
A statement posted online ostensibly by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the Thursday abduction of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, south of Jerusalem.
However, doubts were raised as to the veracity of the claim.
The message claimed the group was holding the three, but not in the city of Hebron, and they would only be released in a swap deal.
“We won’t release the three children, except in return for thousands of prisoners,” the statement read, according to a translation posted online by the Israeli 0404 news outlet.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had blamed Hamas for the kidnapping, saying their involvement was a fact. The Hamas terror group, considered more hard-line than Fatah, had praised the abduction but denied involvement.
Two smaller West Bank groups earlier claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, but neither claim was considered credible.
Some 150 Palestinian suspects, including a large number of Hamas leaders have been arrested over the last several days as Israel and Palestinian forced conduct a massive manhunt for the kidnappers and the three teens.
The search has mostly focused on the Hebron area.
Earlier on Monday, Abbas condemned both the kidnapping and the Israeli response. Netanyahu also held a rare phone conversation with the Palestinian leader in which he requested Palestinian help in finding the perpetrators.