The international community is repulsed by the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, Middle East Quartet Envoy Tony Blair said Wednesday.
“We condemn without any hesitation at all the kidnapping of those three young people,” Blair said on Army Radio, speaking on behalf of the Quartet, which comprises the United Nations, US, Russia and Europe. “It’s a wicked and terrible act, and our thoughts are with the families of those young people and we send them our heartfelt sympathies and solidarity at this time.
“I can assure you that there is nothing but revulsion in the international community for this act,” he said.
The UN, EU, US and several other Western countries have condemned the kidnapping and called for the youths’ immediate release, including Canada, Spain, the Britain, Germany, France and others.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tacitly chastised the EU for not issuing a statement of condemnation until Tuesday.
Blair also condemned the kidnapping Tuesday when he arrived in Israel, and clarified in Wednesday’s radio interview that he had thought it would be best to wait until he arrived in Israel to issue a statement.
Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16 and Naftali Frankel, 16, were kidnapped late Thursday night. Israel blames Hamas, which Israel, the US and Europe consider a terrorist organization. They were last seen at a hitchhiking post in the Etzion Bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem at around 10:25 p.m.
Over the past five days Israeli forces have embarked on a widespread crackdown on the group in the West Bank, arresting 240 members, including senior officials, and searching over 800 homes in a large operation that has focused mainly on the Hebron area but also stretched to Nablus and other parts of the West Bank.
Netanyahu has also said that he holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the safe return of the teens, as the kidnappers originated from the West Bank and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party recently signed off on a reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
Blair stopped short of calling for Abbas to break up the Palestinian unity government, but said that Hamas cannot be part of the peace process if it is not willing to renounce violence and recognize the two-state model.
“It’s difficult because at one level you need reconciliation in Palestinian politics for the peace process to succeed but that reconciliation won’t work unless its reconciliation that’s on the right terms,” he said. “You can’t have a peace process that has a unified Palestinian politics in it unless it is clear that the Palestinian politics wants to see a two-state solution and wants to pursue that objective peacefully and not through violence.”
“If Hamas are not prepared to make that choice then it is hard for me to see how reconciliation can work,” he added.
Raphael Ahren and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.