A parent’s worst nightmare came terriblytrue for three Israeli families: their teenage sons, kidnapped by Hamas while hitchhiking on June 12 were finally found — murdered. And, in retaliation, Israel has responded with 34 precision attacks on terror targets in Gaza:
The Israeli Air Force carried out what it called “precision strikes” on 34 “terror targets” in the Gaza Strip overnight, and a Palestinian from the group Hamas was shot dead when he threw a grenade at forces carrying out an arrest raid, as tensions soared after the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped in the West Bank earlier in June.
The man killed Tuesday was the first casualty since the bodies were found.
The Israeli Defense Forces said the strikes were in response to rockets being launched earlier into Israel from Gaza.
The waves of rockets from Gaza and IDF retaliations have picked up since the teens were kidnapped and the Israeli crackdown began.
And so it goes in the Middle East, where three teenage boys who have barely lived, were plucked off the streets and their lives brutally snuffed out after a terrifying ordeal of capture — and experiencing the act of brutal execution. They were pawns in a high stakes political game, where getting publicity, arousing fear and increasing body count is the name of the game. Israeli security forces are now trying to piece together what happened, The Jerusalem Post reports:
Security evaluations are that the teenagers were murdered a short time after being kidnapped, as they sat in the back seat of the vehicle they had entered thinking they were hitching a ride.
Although other evaluations continue to be weighed, according to this view, a phone call by one of the boys to the police to try and report the kidnapping triggered an immediate and tragic end to their lives. The kidnappers then headed towards Halhul, north of Hebron, and buried the boys in a field three kilometers from the town.
In a hurry to get rid of the bodies, the kidnappers quickly buried them before going into hiding, most likely in the region.
According to one unconfirmed report swirling around the Internet that seems to gain credence by this report, when one of the boys called in shots were fired.
And Israeli security forces have released a photo and the names of the two suspected kidnappers/murderers now being sought:
In addition to the police dragnet and military operations, Israel’s Defense Minister is pressing to create a new settlement in the teens’ memory, an idea that is encountering some resistance:
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Monday night that Israel’s response to the murder of the three teenagers in the West Bank should include a wave of settlement construction and the establishment of a new settlement in memory of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.
During Monday’s cabinet meeting, Ya’alon presented a plan prepared by the Civil Administration with various operations aimed at strengthening the Israeli settlement enterprise. The suggestions include promotion of planning procedures and the publication of construction tenders for thousands of new units in the settlement blocs. The plan also includes a proposal for a new settlement on state lands inside one of the blocs, to be named after the three victims.
The problem: it could be p.r. problem for Israel, turning the news about three teens picked up and murdered by operatives seeking to use them as political chess pieces and grieving families into a political story about Israeli settlements and hurt settlements in general:
Establishment of a new settlement conflicts with the commitment the Israeli government made to the U.S. government, under both President Bush and President Obama.
According to the senior official, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni opposed the move and threatened to vote against the cabinet decision. Livni said that if Israel presents settlement construction as a sanction or punishment in response to the murder, it will hurt the little bit of legitimacy Israel has from the international community to retain the settlements blocs in any future deal with the Palestinians.
Livni evoked the many condemnations of the murders expressed by a slew of world leaders, and argued that settlement construction would damage Israel’s international backing and hurt the national consensus surrounding kidnapping.
“It is wrong to split the nation along ideological lines of construction that the entire nation is not behind,” Livni said. “Such a move could also hurt our international legitimacy for a military operation against Hamas. Settlement construction at this stage would minimize the murders and transform it from a national issue to a political one.”
The heart-wrenching kidnap story has been followed closely by Jews around the world, particularly in the United States. Here’s part of a story from the Gannet’s Lohud Journal News in New York state:
Tears mixed with anger across the region at word that the bodies of three missing Israeli teenagers — including one with relatives in Rockland — had been found in the West Bank.
Naftali Frenkel, 16, a dual Israeli-American citizen with uncles and cousins in Monsey and Brooklyn, as well as Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Gilad Shaar, 16, had been missing since June 12. They disappeared while hitchhiking home near the West Bank city of Hebron and were found Monday by the Israeli military near the village of Halhul.
“We’re all sitting and crying,” said Avrumy Jordan, who helped organize a massive prayer session in mid-June at Provident Bank Park in Ramapo. It was one of at least two organized gatherings at which Rockland residents prayed for the boys’ safe return.
“It’s not the result we hoped for and we prayed for,” Jordan said. “We pray that God give solace to the family.”
Jordan, of Monsey, said a women’s prayer session for the teenagers’ safe return had been scheduled for Wednesday. He said given the news, the prayer session might focus on praying for the families.
Rockland Legislator Aron Wieder, D-Spring Valley, said he expected many individuals or small groups will read portions of the Talmud called the Mishnah in the memory of the three young men.
“At the least the parents will have closure,” said Wieder, whose constituents include Hasidic and Orthodox Jews, as well as non-Jews in Spring Valley. “We gathered together and prayed for the most favorable outcome to find the children alive and well.”
Yes these were children, and the unnecessary death of children anywhere in any circumstance is cause for grief. They weren’t killed by accident. They weren’t killed by military collateral damage. They weren’t killed because they did anything, but because of who they were. They were taken off the streets and murdered to make a statement.
The unspoken conclusion here: if the teens had been held for days, weeks or months, the final result would have been the same.
They were mere numbers who couldn’t become politically useful numbers until they were eliminated.
A cross section of some Tweets:
— TIMEPolitics (@TIMEPolitics) July 1, 2014
Israel vows revenge for the death of 3 teens–1 an American. @MarquardtA could the region be on the brink of war once again?
— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 1, 2014
Analysis: Israel vows to avenge slain teens, but its leaders know escalation risks http://t.co/yeRi9D28nF
— Al Jazeera America (@ajam) July 1, 2014
i have no problem w/ people criticizing Israel's retribution–but only after they've criticized the murder of three innocent teens
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) July 1, 2014
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) July 1, 2014
I extend my heartfelt prayers, sympathies to the families of the missing Israeli teens who were found murdered today http://t.co/lcRkBBs3XI
— Steny Hoyer (@WhipHoyer) June 30, 2014
— Sazzle ???? (@SazzleUk) July 1, 2014
Palestinians are humans just like people everywhere. Let's talk when U stop #Israel from arresting, torturing, occupying & killing them.
— Omar Ghraieb (@Omar_Gaza) June 30, 2014
— I Support Israel (@isupportisrael_) June 28, 2014
Plenty condemning Israel for strikes on Hamas terrorist sites, yet I fail to see condemnation of the almost nightly rockets fired at Israel.
— Diplomat Toy (@WelshToy) July 1, 2014
— Anthony Rek LeCounte (@RekLeCounte) July 1, 2014
Nikama means revenge in Hebrew. We would like to see some. Bibi, please let the IDF re-educate the haters of Israel.
— David Ha'ivri (@haivri) July 1, 2014
— CiF Watch (@CiFWatch) June 30, 2014
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.