Hundreds of people prayed Saturday night at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, for the safe return of three Israelis kidnapped in the West Bank.
Eyal Yifrach, 19, from Elad near Petah Tikva, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, from the settlement of Talmon, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, a dual Israeli-American citizen from Nof Ayalon near Modi’in, who were last seen at a hitchhiking post near Hebron, and whose kidnappings were confirmed Saturday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, were last heard from around 10 p.m. Thursday night.
Among the attendees were Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and members of Knesset, who prayed for the release of the abducted teenagers and recited psalms. Similar prayer sessions were held elsewhere Saturday night, including at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced a full closure of the Hebron area, only allowing passage at checkpoints to Palestinians in need of urgent medical care and other humanitarian cases.
Ya’alon also instructed that all crossings in and out of Gaza be closed.
West Bank settlements said they would not permit entry to Palestinian workers on Sunday morning.
“Closing the settlements [to Palestinian laborers] is meant as leverage to pressure the population of the Palestinian Authority to not cover up the kidnapping and to create pressure to turn in the kidnappers and return the boys home safely,” the Yesha Council – the umbrella organization of West Bank settlements – said in a message to settlement leaders.
On Saturday, in his first comment since the disappearance of the three, Netanyahu confirmed that they were kidnapped by a terrorist group.
“Our boys were kidnapped by a terrorist organization. There is no doubt about that,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the press Saturday night, following a security meeting with Ya’alon and IDF chief Benny Gantz.
“We are in the midst of a widespread operation to locate and bring back the three young yeshiva students. I spoke with their parents, and I told them that we are doing everything possible and more to bring back their boys, who are also our boys,” said the prime minister.
On Saturday evening, President Shimon Peres spoke with the families of the abducted teenagers, saying, “I know that these are difficult days for you. We are one nation, we are one family and I want you to know that all of Israel is with you during these difficult times.”
According to a statement from the President’s Residence, Peres stressed that the army was doing everything within its power to recover them.
“All the branches of Israel’s security forces are doing everything to bring our dear boys home,” he said. “You are exhibiting strength of spirit; I stand with you during this difficult time. The people of Israel are praying for their safe return.”
The statement said that the parents of Eyal Yifrach, one of the abductees, thanked Peres and said, “We feel the embrace of the people of Israel and we know that everything is being done to bring them back home. We pray for their return and for good news.”