WASHINGTON — In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Thursday evening, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) demanded that the three Israeli teenagers who have been held by Hamas for over two weeks be released immediately, and called on the US to use “all of the available means to stand with Israel” and aid in their return.

“This should be on the front page of every paper in the US because this is an issue that is as vital to us as it is to the nation of Israel,” Cruz said, standing next to a large poster of the three kidnapped teens. Cruz detailed aspects of the boys’ lives and personalities, noting that all three are talented students and describing 16-year-old Naftali Fraenkel, also an American citizen, as a talented ping-pong player whose skills were evident on a YouTube video.

Cruz emphasized the kidnapping suspects’ affiliation with Hamas, which he described as “a vicious terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction and has launched thousands of rockets into Israel, killing innocent civilians.”

Citing a Times of Israel article, Cruz complained that the “mother of one of the two alleged terrorists claims she did not know of her son’s actions but said she would be, quote, proud of him, and hoped he would continue to evade capture.”

“Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal spoke about the kidnappings on Monday, saying ‘I bless those who did it because it is a moral obligation to free prisoners from Israeli jails,” Cruz continued. “This is a leader of Hamas, now part effectively of the unity government with the Palestinian Authority blessing those who kidnapped three schoolboys. Because this is the kind of activity that Hamas terrorists support – the kidnapping of innocent schoolchildren.”

“This is the same terrorist organization with which the Palestinian Authority recently joined in a so-called “unity” government,” Cruz complained, adding that “there can be no more illusions that Hamas has any role in any future government formed by the Palestinian Authority. They must not receive any further recognition or legitimization.”

The three kidnapped Israeli teens, from L-R: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16. (photo credit: courtesy)

The three kidnapped Israeli teens, from L-R: Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16. (photo credit: courtesy)

Shortly after the kidnapping on June 12 of Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Eyal Yifrach, 19, Cruz was one of a number of members of Congress who called on the Obama administration to reassess its current wait-and-see policy regarding suspending US funding to the Palestinian unity government.

In a statement released on the Monday after the abduction, Cruz called on Obama to immediately direct the Department of State to suspend assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the PA recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and takes specific and affirmative steps to renounce and eradicate terrorism.

“This most recent vicious attack on innocent young civilians demonstrates beyond any doubt that the PA is not fulfilling these conditions, and not one more US taxpayer dollar should be sent to support them until they do,” Cruz argued at the time.

On Thursday, Cruz called out from the Senate floor, “Hamas, give the boys back. Hamas, give those boys back now” and said that “the full weight of the world should bear down on Hamas to give them back safely and immediately. If they do not, we should use all of the available means to stand unequivocally with Israel for however long it takes to find these boys and to bring them home.”

“These are teenagers who were targeted for who they are, who have done no wrong, who have done nothing that comes near to deserving what has happened to them that day while waiting at the bus stop to go home from school,” Cruz continued, ending with a prayer for their release.