WASHINGTON — As news of the murders of Israeli teenagers Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach reached Washington in the early afternoon Monday, lawmakers voiced unequivocal condemnation of the killings, while two members of Congress, on a visit to Jerusalem, issued a bipartisan call for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity agreement with Hamas.
“The news of the murder of these three Israeli teenagers — Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach — is simply devastating. We all had so much hope that this story would not end this way,” Secretary John Kerry wrote in a statement Monday evening. “As a father, there are no words to express such a horrific loss that shakes all people of conscience. We pray for these three boys and their families, and together we grieve with all the people of Israel. Knowing that Naftali was also an American citizen makes this an especially heavy blow not just to Israel, but to the United States.”
“We condemn this despicable terrorist act in the strongest possible terms,” Kerry added. “The killing of innocent youths is an outrage beyond any understanding or rationale, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. This is a time for all to work towards that goal without destabilizing the situation.”
Others, however, saw the murders as the last evidence that the Palestinian unity government must be dissolved.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Ranking Member of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee issued a statement calling on Abbas to voluntarily dissolve the unity agreement that he entered with Hamas in April if it is proven that Hamas was behind the murders.
Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen were in Israel on a Congressional fact-finding mission, and were scheduled to meet with the teens’ families before the youths’ bodies were discovered outside of Hebron Monday.
The two issued a joint statement in which they said that “no words can adequately express the sorrow and sadness we feel for the families of Gil-ad, Naftali and Eyal, the people of Israel and the entire Jewish community worldwide. This is a day of tragedy and mourning; the world has lost three beloved sons, friends, and beautiful souls who were taken from us too early, but will forever live on in our hearts and minds.”
The representatives promised that they would “continue to support the Government of Israel in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice,” adding that “if it is determined that Hamas is behind this horrific tragedy, Abu Mazen [Abbas] must immediately break up the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas, a US designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, also combined condolences with an intensified focus on Abbas.
“Our hearts are broken by this appalling act of terrorism against three innocent Israelis, and our prayers are with all of their family members in Israel and the United States,” she wrote, adding that “President Abbas must make clear that such extremism will not be tolerated, and lead the effort to hold accountable every single person who played a role in this evil act.”
US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) immediately blamed Hamas for the murder, describing it as “a terrorist-led atrocity that demands justice.”
“While we lift Gil-ad Shaar, Naftali Frankel, and Eyal Yifrach and their loving families up in prayer, we must also act. Hamas is, unequivocally, a terrorist organization with blood on its hands that must be condemned on the world stage. There should be no path forward for Hamas to have any role in any future government formed by the Palestinian Authority, and no nation should accommodate, legitimize, or negotiate with this group that engages in the killing of innocent civilians.”
Cruz called on the Palestinian Authority to “immediately renounce Hamas and actively work to expel Hamas from civil society” and said that “the United States should stand unequivocally with the Nation of Israel as it responds to this brutal terrorism and acts forcefully to protect its people.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) noted that Frankel was a dual US-Israeli citizen, and said that “the killers must be held accountable.”
“The brutal murder of these boys should leave the administration with no illusion that a Hamas-backed Palestinian government will be a partner for peace. With these killings, the genocidal intent of Hamas has been laid bare yet again,” he complained.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) described the kidnapping and murder as “a cowardly and barbaric act that has no place in a civilized world.”
Waxman, who has talked with members of Shaar’s family who live in his district, noted that the teens had “deep ties” to the US, and said that “we must stand firmly with Israel as it seeks to bring those responsible to justice.”
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) stopped short of condemning Hamas, but noted that “although we do not yet have all the facts, two things are certain: those responsible for this heinous killing must meet justice, and the United States Congress stands with you in the fight for peace and the struggle against terror.”