With the announcement of the discovery of the bodies of the kidnapped teenagers on Monday night, the nation plunged into mourning for the slain Israeli trio, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19.
President Shimon Peres said the Israeli security crackdown will persist in its efforts to combat terror.
“Alongside the heavy mourning, we will remain determined to punish the villainous terrorists with a firm hand,” he said. “Our war on terror will only grow, and will not be weakened, such that this murderous terror will not dare raise its head.”
The president also offered his deepest condolences to the families and praised them for “devotedly raising their children.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed the blame squarely on Hamas. “With great sorrow we discovered three bodies this evening, and all signs indicate that these are the bodies of our three kidnapped youth, Eyal, Gil–Ad and Naftali. They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals. On behalf of the whole nation of Israel, I would like to say to the families, to the mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters and brothers, our hearts bleed, the entire nation cries along with them. The boys will be brought for burial in Israel.”
“They were on their way home to meet the parents, who will never see them again,” Netanyahu added. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay. May the memory of the three children be blessed.”
Both right-wing and left-wing Knesset members issued fierce condemnations of the killing and extended their condolences to the families.
“The kidnapping and murder of innocent youths in the dead of the night is a heinous and unforgivable crime,” opposition leader and Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog said in a Facebook statement. “There is no human explanation or justification and I am convinced that the long arm of the security forces will reach the murderers.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid simply wrote “The heart is broken,” and Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich said: “There are no words to comfort the parents of children 16 years old whose deaths were untimely and under such violent and cruel circumstances.”
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called for a forceful military response to the murder. The abductors of the teenagers have not been yet been located.
“There is no forgiveness for the murderers of children and their emissaries,” Bennett wrote. “Now is the time for action.”
“The tragic end of the teenagers must be the end of Hamas,” Danon wrote, while Edelstein called for a “relentless war against terror in general and Hamas in particular.”
Israel has maintained that Hamas was behind the kidnapping and killing of the three yeshiva students, but the terror organization has denied the allegations.
“Gil-ad, Naftali, Eyal, may God avenge their blood,” MK Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party said. “The price is very heavy, but we, the entire nation of Israel promises, we won’t quickly forget what we learned, the unity, the faith, and the rare power your families have given us will not cease.”
British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote in a statement: “Today, the Jewish people and many others are mourning the loss of three precious souls, who were taken in the prime of their lives.”
The bodies were found near Halhul north of Hebron in the West Bank on Monday afternoon. Israeli security forces, which had been conducting extensive searches in the area, sealed off the area and declared it a closed military zone. The site is less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where the teens had been abducted.
A search team from the Kfar Etzion field school, along with IDF soldiers from an elite unit, found the teens.
Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped on the night of June 12 at a hitchhiking post outside the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem.
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.