WASHINGTON, DC — US President Barack Obama expressed his condolences Monday to the families of the three slain Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaar, whose bodies were found several hours earlier near the Palestinian village of Halhul, north of Hebron. The three had been abducted on June 12 while they were hitchhiking from a bus stop in the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank.
“On behalf of the American people I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel – who held Israeli and American citizenship,” said Obama in a statement. “As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth. From the outset, I have offered our full support to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice, and I encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together in that effort.
“I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation. As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry also urged restraint, condemning the murders as a “despicable terrorist act,” “an outrage beyond any understanding or rationale,” and saying that the perpetrators must be brought to justice, “without destabilizing the situation.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Monday that “there can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians,” adding that “this heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench division and distrust and to widen the conflict.”
“It must not be allowed to succeed,” he said in a statement.
Ban urged “all parties to abide by their obligations under international law and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate this highly tense situation.”
Quartet Representative Tony Blair said he was “shocked and appalled by the heinous and wicked kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers.”
“There can be no justification for this act, there can be no compromise with those responsible, and the whole international community should be united in condemning it,” Blair said in a statement.
Politicians and leaders throughout the world fiercely condemned the kidnappings as well.
French President Francois Hollande condemned the “cowardly murder” as well, and went on to offer his sincere condolences to the slain teenagers’ families and to Israeli authorities, AFP reported.
Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the killing was “an appalling and inexcusable act of terror perpetrated against young teenagers,” according to AFP.
“Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those responsible,” Cameron added in a statement.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “deeply shocked” over the death of the Israeli teens. The ministry later urged that “the yearning for peace should determine our actions.”
Canada’s foreign minister, John Baird, said he was “personally dismayed to hear the horrific news” and expressed condolences to the families and friends of the slain teens and “all Israelis who have been emotionally awaiting their safe return.”
He said that Ottawa will be represented at the shiva by the Canadian ambassador to Israel.
“Terror must never be allowed to stand in the face of any country or people that aspires to bring peace and prosperity to their citizens. Israel is a country that faces unimaginable threats from terrorist organizations, like Hamas, on a daily basis. Canada has, and will always condemn murderous terrorist attacks like we’ve seen today,” said Baird in a statement.
The European Union’s ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Anderson stated that he sent his condolences to the Israeli government over the “despicable murder of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali,” and expressed hope that the kidnappers will soon be brought to justice.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “deeply saddened and outraged by news of the tragic murders,” adding that the city “mourns them together with their families.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed shock at the killings, and called on the Israeli government to bring the perpetrators of the act to justice.
“We have communicated our condolences and solidarity to the families and Government of Israel and pray that they will be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Those responsible for this heinous and barbaric crime and those who aid and abet them, support them, and inspire them must be brought to swift justice and be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center called for immediate action against the murderers as well and urged US President Barack Obama to clarify to the Palestinian people that they must abolish Hamas.
“This is not a time for ambiguity but for decisive action. Those are our children who were murdered by Hamas, but make no mistake the leadership of that terrorist organization is already planning the next attack against women and children,” read a statement by the organization.
“President Obama must tell the Palestinian people that peace and Hamas are mutually exclusive and that the US will no longer agree to any contact with a Palestinian government where any member of Hamas – political, military, or technocrat,” the statement concluded.
“We condemn these brutal killings and express hope that those who carried them out will be brought quickly to justice,” the J Street advocacy group said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the three boys and with the people of Israel at this moment of profound sadness. Tonight, we join them in the mourners’ call that ‘He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel.’”
The three Israelis had been killed soon after their abduction, and their bodies were apparently disposed of hurriedly. The bodies were not in a good condition when they were found, Channel 2 said. “It was a harrowing sight.”
Israeli authorities on Thursday had named two Hamas members as prime suspects in the kidnapping.
The two, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, have been missing from their homes in Hebron’s Hares neighborhood ever since the kidnapping took place. The two were allegedly in the car in which the three were abducted.
Hamas officials in Hebron confirmed the two suspects were members, and said Israeli troops have targeted the men’s homes since the beginning of Operation Brother’s Keeper. The officials said troops had entered the homes several times, conducting intense searches and confiscating items as evidence.
On Sunday night, tens of thousands of people crowded into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to show support for the families of the three kidnapped teenagers, under the banner “Singing Together for Their Return.” President-elect Reuven Rivlin and the parents of the kidnapped teens highlighted the speaker list.
Since the start of Operation Brother’s Keeper to find them, 18 days of searches had seen the arrests of over 400 Palestinians, a majority of them members of Hamas.
AFP contributed to this report.