A second group on Saturday claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the three teenage yeshiva students missing since Thursday, but it is yet unclear whether the claim had any credibility.
An organization calling itself the “Liberators’ Battalion of Hebron” sent out a message to the press Saturday claiming it carried out the abduction of Gil-ad Shaar, 16, Naftali Frenkel, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19, in the Gush Etzion area near Hebron late Thursday night.
The group said it abducted the boys “out of a sense of responsibility for the [Palestinian] prisoners sitting in the jails of the occupying entity.”
“We announce that we abducted three Zionists in a very precise operation,” the group said in the statement.
“We call on our brothers and sons to escalate the clashes with the occupying entity so we can complete our plan [to free the prisoners].”
The group warned that “no matter what Israel will do, it will not be able to reach the hostages.”
On Friday, a Salafist jihadi organization called Dawlat al Islam issued a claim of responsibility for the incident, but in this case too, the credibility of the claim is unclear.
The West Bank yeshiva students were reportedly last spotted at a hitchhiking post in the vicinity of Hebron on Thursday night. No one has seen or heard from them since.
Israeli security forces conducted a massive manhunt overnight Friday and into Saturday as part of an ongoing investigation into the disappearances.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Saturday afternoon that Israel’s working assumption is that the three are still alive. He admitted that their apparent abduction had gone “under the radar” of intelligence gatherers who therefore failed to thwart the attack.
The Shin Bet (the Israeli Security Agency) said Friday that it thwarted 14 attempted kidnappings of Israelis in 2014 alone.