The three youths who were kidnapped by terrorists on Thursday night are Eyal Yifrach, 19, of Elad, Gilad Shaar, 16, of Talmon, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, of Nof Ayalon. Naftali is an American citizen. American officials have been notified as was reported on erev Shabbos.
The search for the youths continued throughout Friday night and Shabbos and it continues on motzei Shabbos as well. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon reported that thousands of troops have been moved to Yehuda and Shomron, with an emphasis on the Hebron area, where it is believed the youths are being held. The search was in PA (Palestinian Authority) occupied Hebron and surrounding villages south of the holy city including Dura and Yata. Amid the ongoing house-to-house searches security forces have arrested dozens of PA residents for questioning in the hope of obtaining information that will lead to the youths. One PA resident whose husband and brothers have been missing for a number of days was taken to the ISA (Israel Security Agency – Shin Bet) for questioning as security officials feel perhaps they are involved. PA residents are not cooperative by and large, and for many, the news of the kidnapping of the youths was reason for celebration.
Parades were held in Gaza as well as some areas controlled by the PA in Yehuda and Shomron on Shabbos as residents wished to celebrate the terrorist kidnapping of the Jewish youths.
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blames the Abu Mazen administration, which recently signed a coalition government agreement with Hamas, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) according to all reports is cooperating to the utmost amid the realization it is to his advantage that the youths are found safe and sound as quickly as possible. Israel has asked PA forces not to assist in the field but PA authorities are passing information to Israeli security agencies.
In a motzei Shabbos press conference the prime minister stated every took and asset at his disposal will be used to bring the teenagers back safe and sound, and to prevent their transfer to Gaza. He stated there is no longer any doubt that this is a terrorist attack and the missing youths were abducted by terrorists. Some of the critics feel the IDF and other agencies were far too slow to activate the system, explaining the call came from one of the youths stating “we were abducted” shortly after 10 PM on Thursday night, yet security forces did not begin addressing the abduction as an act of terror until Friday morning. They fear that during those precious hours immediately following the incident the boys could have been transferred to Gaza, Sinai or even Jordan.
Logistically speaking the vehicle traveling south from Gush Etzion could have continued southbound on Route 60 to Beersheva and from there it would be easy to make it to Gaza or Sinai.
In his address to the motzei Shabbos press conference, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz reassured the nation that the military was doing everything possible to locate the youths.
The various news analysts and reports quoting “senior IDF officials” anonymously seem to believe that Hamas is behind the terrorist abduction of the youths. One of the fears is that they are no longer alive chas v’sholom. The experts explain “it is most difficult and nearly impossible” to keep three teens hostage inside the Hebron area without someone hearing something. This is the reason some feel that they were killed shortly after being abducted or alternatively, transferred to Gaza or Sinai. Despite the lack of cooperation from PA residents, the IDF does maintain a good intelligence network throughout Yehuda and Shomron and this too leads some experts to believe the youths are not among the living chas v’sholom or have been transferred to Gaza or elsewhere.
PA authorities located a Hyundai i35 which is believed to have been the vehicle used to transport the boys. It appears the vehicle was stolen from Israel and used by the terrorists. Police forensic experts reportedly have found DNA and other evidence in that vehicle belonging to the victims.
Once again, the IDF continues to operate under the premise that they are alive, as was stated by Defense Minister Ya’alon, and the search continues to focus on the Hebron district. The military on Shabbos continued using various means to obtain information, including deployment of drone surveillance aircraft.
The Security Cabinet will convene later on motzei Shabbos. due to the lack of concrete information as to the whereabouts of the hostages, it is unlikely the cabinet is going to reach any decision but more likely they are convening to be briefed and give a free hand to the IDF.
Israel Police remains on heightened alert nationwide against additional attempts to abduct Israelis as well as violence related to the current situation.
YWN-ISRAEL will continue updating as information becomes available.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)