Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night said that “Hamas is responsible, and will pay the price” for the deaths of the three youths abducted on June 12.
Hamas officials warned that if Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for the deaths, or for the past two weeks of rocket fire into Israel, then “the gates of hell would open.”
“If the occupiers carry out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.
Israeli army searchers founds the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frankel, 16, buried under rocks in an open field north of Hebron Tuesday afternoon.
“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” Netanyahu said.
“On behalf of the entire Jewish People, I would like to tell the dear families – the mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and brothers and sisters – we are deeply saddened, the entire nation weeps with you. We will give the boys a proper burial.”
“Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created,” Netanyahu said, quoting a well-known Israeli poem about pogroms in Kishniev in 1903.
“…neither has vengeance for the blood of three pure youths, who were on their way home to meet their parents, who will not see them anymore. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memories of the three boys be blessed,” he said in a statement.
Netanyahu has said that Israel has intelligence information directly linking two missing Hamas members to the abduction and deaths of the three, who were heading home on the night of Thursday, June 12, from their yeshiva high school in Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem when they were seized.
As of 22:00 IST, Israel’s Security Cabinet is in session and deliberating a range of responses, both military and diplomatic, to the grim discovery.
Outgoing President Shimon Peres’ office also released a statement on the discovery of the bodies.
“All of Israel bows its head today,” Peres said.
“For 18 days we hoped and prayed with one voice that we would find the boys safe and well. With this bitter news all of Israel mourns their deaths. Along with our deep sense of loss we remain committed to bringing the terrorists to justice. Our resolve in the fight against terror will only strengthen and we will ensure that murderous terrorism of this sort will not dare to rear its head again.”
President Peres continued, “At this difficult time my thoughts and prayers are with the family. They educated their children with dedication and embedded within them a love of their country.”
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said on Facebook that “Murderers of children and those who direct them cannot be forgiven.”
“Now is a time for actions, not words,” Bennet said.