The brother of missing Israeli teenager Eyal Yifrach said at first he was in disbelief when he found out two weeks ago that his sibling was kidnapped in the West Bank.
“Eyal said he would be coming home late that day and never returned. This is now our reality,” he said. “I haven’t even been able to eat. My brother and I are best friends. Every time he came into the house I was so happy, but I would never tell him. Now I regret not saying how much he means to me.”
Asaf said that it has been “very helpful” to seek advice from the parents of former kidnapped Israeli Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit as the search continues for Eyal and fellow teens Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar.
Asaf believes his brother is still alive and said he is trying to stay positive.
“The last contact we had between us was two days before he was taken. He sent me a text saying he was sorry as he’d mixed up our tefillin and taken mine by mistake,” he said. “Tefillin connects a person to God and now mine is connecting me to my brother.
Also speaking to the Jewish News, London Mayor Boris Johnson threw his support behind the campaign for the missing students. He said, “Like many Londoners, I was shocked to hear about the abduction of the three yeshiva students, and support the aims of the Bring Back our Boys campaign for their safe release.”
“I hope that this is solved without any further escalation of violence on the ground on both sides,” he added.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency on Thursday published the identities of two main suspects behind the kidnappings: Hamas terrorists Marwan Quasma, 29, and Amar Abu Eisha, 32. Both men are from Hebron and have been arrested more than once before. Abu Eisha’s brother was killed in November 2005 while attempting to hurl an explosive device at IDF soldiers.
While Hebron remains a main area of interest, the Israeli operation, known as Brother’s Keeper has shifted from mass arrests to intelligence-gathering and more focused searches, The Jewish Chronicle reported. The IDF has also removed some roadblocks and travel restrictions for local Palestinian residents.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday, “It’s a matter of time until we get to the abductees and kidnappers. Forbearance and patience are needed here.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said concern is growing over the fate of the three teenagers as the search enters its third week.
“As time goes by, the worry increases, but the working assumption is that they are alive,” he said. “It’s a large area and there are many possible hiding places.”