Terrorists abducted teens, Netanyahu says
JERUSALEM — A terror group abducted three teens, including an American, who disappeared in the West Bank, Israel's prime minister said on Saturday, as soldiers continued to search the territory to find them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again blamed the Palestinian Authority for the Thursday night disappearance of the teens. Palestinian officials, however, said that they are assisting Israeli forces, who pored over surveillance footage and arrested more than a dozen Palestinians.
There have been at least three claims of responsibility for the alleged abductions, none of which could be verified.
Netanyahu made a televised address in the evening after meeting with top security officials, saying Israeli forces were conducting “intensive operations” to locate the teens and bring them home.
“Our children were kidnapped by a terror group,” he said. “There is no doubt about that.”
Netanyahu said he directed Israel's security branches to use all means at their disposal to find the teenagers and “prevent the possibility of their transfer to the Gaza Strip or anywhere else.”
The Israeli military identified the teens as Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19. Israeli television station Channel 10 named Frenkel as the U.S. citizen. They were reportedly hitchhiking home when they were abducted.
The alleged kidnapping would be the biggest abduction of its kind by Palestinian militant groups in recent memory in the West Bank. Israeli-Palestinian tensions have been strained because of the recent formation of a Palestinian unity government that has the backing of the Islamic militant group Hamas.
Hamas, branded a terror group by the West for its attacks aimed at civilians, has been involved in kidnappings of Israelis in the past. The group routinely claims responsibility if involved in an attack but has not claimed it took the teens.
Netanyahu said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must do everything necessary to help return the teens. He said Abbas is responsible for any attack on Israel, whether it emanates from the West Bank or Gaza.
“It's impossible to talk peace with Israel while simultaneously forming a unity government with Hamas, a terror group committed to destroying Israel,” he said.