Five days after the police’s emergency hotline apparently failed to properly handle a call from a kidnapped teenager reporting the abduction, Police Commander Yohanan Danino announced Tuesday he would appoint a special committee to examine the failure.
The kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, took place south of Jerusalem Thursday night, but the army only began searching after complaints from parents Friday morning, despite one of the teens calling in to report he had been kidnapped.
The abduction has sparked a massive manhunt in the West Bank, with some wondering if the teens could have been saved had police responded sooner.
The committee will be composed of several officers serving outside the police’s Judea and Samaria district, where the call had been placed, and will begin its investigation late Tuesday or Wednesday, Haaretz reported.
The kidnapping is thought to have taken place at around 10:25 p.m. Police received a call from one of the teens a few minutes later. Officials said the teenager was heard whispering “We have been kidnapped!” before the call was abruptly disconnected.
However, the IDF was only informed of the kidnapping hours later, after one of the teens’ parents notified police that he had lost contact with his son. For hours, police thought it was a prank call.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Sunday afternoon that he was aware of claims that police had dropped the ball in failing to relay to the IDF information about the abduction, and that such claims would be examined more closely after the teens were located.
However, Danino, who visited the parents of the kidnapped teenagers Tuesday, decided to launch the investigation earlier, after Israeli officials asserted that the ongoing operation to return the abducted teenagers may continue for some time.
Officials have said they are working on the assumption the teens are alive, but the fact that five days have elapsed without a sign of life is raising grave concerns. The Israeli government has pointed the finger at Hamas and said that it holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the teenagers’ well-being.
Overnight Monday, the IDF conducted a wave of mass arrests across the West Bank, apprehending 41 Hamas activists, a senior officer said Tuesday. Among the detainees was the director of Hamas’s television station. Israel has arrested some 200 Palestinians since the three teens were seized.
IDF activity on Tuesday expanded across all of the West Bank in an effort to hamstring Hamas’s financial and operational infrastructure, an official said.
Most of those rounded up were from Hamas, including activists and political leaders, among them 10 members of the non-functioning Palestinian parliament. Israel’s security cabinet discussed further steps Monday, including the possible deportation of Hamas leaders from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is in control.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report