UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and issued a call for their “immediate release” from captivity on Saturday.
Yeshiva students Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were abducted while hitchhiking south of Jerusalem Thursday night, Israeli officials said, leading to a wide-ranging manhunt in the West Bank to locate the three.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Saturday night that the yeshiva students were snatched by terrorists.
In a United Nations statement, Ban urged both Israel and the Palestinians “to exercise restraint and lend their urgent support for the release and safe return of the three youths.”
“”The Secretary-General condemns the abduction on 12 June of three Israeli students, including two minors, in the West Bank. He expresses his solidarity with the families of the abducted and calls for their immediate release,” a statement from the UN on Saturday said.
The UN chief simultaneously denounced the death Saturday of a Palestinian child injured in a Gaza airstrike last week.
The raid in question was a targeted hit against “global jihad-affiliated terrorists,” in conjunction with the Shin Bet security service. The man targeted in the attack was named by the IDF as Mohammad Awwar, 33, a Hamas policeman who also belonged to “extremist Salafi” groups responsible for attacks against Israel, IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said.
Ban expressed “his deep concern about the trend toward violence on the ground and attendant loss of life,” the statement said.
The UN statement on the kidnapping incident follows public denunciation from the US, Canada, Spain, and the EU ambassador to Israel over the weekend.
“Canada is deeply concerned by reports that three Israeli teenagers may have been kidnapped in the West Bank, and condemns those aiming to instigate conflict,” Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement Saturday. “We urge the Palestinian security authorities, who have been trained through Canadian and US leadership, to make every effort to investigate this incident and work diligently to ensure the safe return of these children to their families.”
On Friday, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said that Washington was “very concerned” about the well-being of the kidnapped teenagers: Gil-ad Shaar, 16, from the settlement of Talmon; Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon near Modi’in; and Eyal Yifrach, 19, from Elad near Petah Tikva.
Israel said Frenkel was a dual US-Israeli citizen, but Harf said she could not confirm that fact. She also said that Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the issue.
“We are working with the government of Israel and with the Palestinian Authority to try to ensure the situation is resolved quickly, and that the three teenagers are safely reunited with their families, Harf said. “What we know is the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority are working closely together on efforts to find the three teenagers and to hopefully bring a quick resolution to the matter, and of course giving this cooperation our full encouragement.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.