Politicians and public figures across the board expressed shock Friday over the suspected kidnapping of three yeshiva students in the West Bank, and offered prayer that the missing teenagers would be found and brought back to their homes safely and quickly.
Opposition leader and Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog said he was “joining in prayer with the people of Israel for the welfare and safe return of the three boys.”
Herzog wrote in a statement that he fully supports the families of the missing yeshiva students, and that he stands behind the IDF in its efforts to locate the young men.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel called on all Israeli citizens to unite and offer prayer for the well-being of the teenagers.
“I think people know that at such moments we should all come together,” he said during an interview with Channel 2.
Israel’s Chief Rabbis urged the public to recite Psalms, biblical passages which are traditionally read at times of distress. A prayer session for the teens safety was set to take place on Friday, 11:30 p.m., at the Western Wall, Ynet reported.
Meanwhile, MKs on the right criticized the newly established Palestinian Fatah-Hamas unity government, and claimed the Palestinians were promoting terror. Other MKs demanded that Israel take immediate action against all Palestinian terror organizations operating in the West Bank.
“The responsibility lies directly and clearly on [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas and the government of terror he established,” Likud MK Ofir Akunis said.
“This is an inevitable consequence of legitimizing terrorist organizations,” he added.
Fellow Likud member Miri Regev said the Palestinian Authority was pushing a “policy of terror” aimed at escalating tensions across the West Bank. “This fatal event, if it occurred, shows the true face of the PA, an escalation of terror, not peace,” she said.
Regev criticized Justice Minister Tzipi Livni for meeting with Palestinian officials and said Livni should be removed from her post.
“The Israeli government should provide deterrence against terrorists and strike any attempt to compromise the security of the state and its citizens,” Regev concluded.
The Prime Minister’s Office also said it held the Abbas responsible for the students’ well-being. The PMO added that the event was the result of Abbas’s formation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday called the families of the three teenagers, urging them to be strong, and telling them the State of Israel would do everything possible for their sons. He promised to keep them updated.
Israel’s security forces were continuing their large-scale operation Friday to locate the three teenagers.
Roadblocks were set up around the West Bank to prevent the possible transfer of the three to the Gaza Strip, Channel 2 reported Friday.
Palestinian prisoners in Israel were reportedly celebrating the news of the feared kidnappings, according to Channel 2. Over 100 Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike to protest their detention without charge.
A senior Islamic Jihad official on Friday called on Palestinians to kidnap Israeli citizens, arguing that Israel had proven in the past that it was willing to negotiate the release of Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for the lives of its civilians.
Netanyahu met Friday with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and the Shin Bet at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv for a security assessment.
The three students were reported missing Thursday night after witnesses said they had been seen hitching rides home at around 10 p.m. from their yeshiva in Gush Etzion.
The IDF spokesperson’s office said they lost contact with the three Thursday overnight.
“Since the morning, we have been engaged in operational activity designed to find [them] and bring them [back],” said Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, the commander of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. “Over the past several hours, there has been a very large intelligence effort to try and determine what happened with those youths since they disappeared.”
Facts that might interfere with the ongoing investigation, he said, were being withheld at this time.
A torched car was found in an undisclosed location in the West Bank, the IDF said, adding that checks were underway to determine the connection, if any.
Palestinian Islamists have repeatedly called to kidnap Israelis, including to use them as bargaining chips to extract the release of Palestinian security prisoners.
Earlier Friday, Palestinian media reported a firefight between Israeli military forces and Palestinian gunmen in the South Hebron Hills region. According to a report in the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, large IDF forces raided the village of Yatta in the Hebron region and searched houses there. The military had set up road blocks in the area.