As it happened: Reaction to discovery of Israeli teenagers' bodies

Key Points

  • The bodies of three Israeli teenagers abducted on 12 June have been found in the West Bank
  • An Israeli military spokesman said their bodies were found in a pit in a field near Halhul
  • Israel has set up blockades and closed down areas around the town, north of Hebron
  • Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both aged 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach went missing nearby
  • Israel has accused Hamas of being behind their disappearance, a claim the group denies
  • The Israeli search operation has been one of the most intense for years (All times in GMT)

    The Israeli military says the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who went missing more than two weeks ago have been found in a pit near the West Bank city of Hebron.


    Israel repeatedly accused Hamas of being behind the disappearance of the teenagers, a claim the Palestinian Islamist militant group strongly denied.


    Reports say the Israeli army has sealed off the Palestinian town of Halhul, which is just north of Hebron.


    Israeli TV says the families have been notified. There is no official word yet as to how the teenagers died although the New York Times cited government sources as saying they appeared to have been shot.


    The Israeli cabinet is meeting in emergency session and a statement is due shortly. The security cabinet will convene at 21:30 local time (18:30 GMT)


    The teenagers' disappearance triggered one of the most intensive search operations by Israeli security forces in the West Bank for years.


    Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested since the teenagers went missing, while five have been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces over the past weeks.


    The BBC's Yolande Knell in Jerusalem says there are reports of clashes in Halhul, which was sealed off by the Israeli military after the bodies were found in a pit outside the town.


    Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, who were both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach disappeared from a junction frequently used by hitch-hikers on Route 60 in the West Bank.

    An Israeli woman holds a sign with the images of the three missing Israeli teenagers at a rally in Rabin Square in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on 29 June 2014

    On Sunday, thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to demand the release of the teenagers.

    Israelis attend a rally for three missing Israeli teenagers in Rabin Square in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on 29 June 2014.

    Deputy Israeli Defence Minister Danny Danon says in a statement: "I was filled with deep sadness upon hearing of the murders of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach by Hamas terrorists." Hamas has always denied any involvement.


    The latest images show Israeli police stationed outside the Palestinian town of Halhul, just north of Hebron.

    Israeli policeman outside village of Halhul. 30 June 2014

    Last week, the Israeli authorities named two suspects in the hunt for the teenagers - Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha - both are associated with the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

    Alexander Marquardt, ABC News

    tweets: Bodies of 3 kidnapped #Israel teens are currently going through forensic identification, says @IDFSpokesperson Families have been notified.


    Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel has issued this statement: "Deep grief. The people of Israel were unified in prayer, unity that should remain at all times. In war, as in war, the terrorists should be hit mercilessly on one hand and provide a proper Zionist response on the other. The eternal nation is not afraid of a long journey."


    A gag order was put in place earlier on Monday forbidding unauthorised announcements of the discovery of the bodies, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reports.

    Danny Ayalon Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel

    tweets: May God avenge the deaths of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad. Our hearts go out to their families, as an entire nation mourns with them.


    Israel's security service Shin Bet releases a statement saying that, acting on information, it concentrated its search on an area outside the town of Halhul. "This evening search forces located the three bodies buried in an open field about 3km (1.9 miles) west of Halhul," it says. "The bodies are currently going through forensic identification."

    Dave Sharma / Australia's Ambassador to Israel

    tweets: Shocked, saddened & outraged at reports that bodies of 3 kidnapped boys have been found. Condemn their murder wholeheartedly.


    The Shin Bet security service statement adds: "Field investigations and searches continue in the area and the Shin Bet continues its intelligence efforts to capture all those involved in this attack, including the two men suspected of kidnapping and murdering the teens, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha."

    Barak Ravid, Diplomatic correspondent, Haaretz Newspaper

    tweets: FM Lieberman cuts short his trip to Europe. Will return to Israel tomorrow and join security meetings


    The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says there will be huge anger as well as grief in Israel over the deaths of the teenagers.


    Asked if the US message remained one of restraint, US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says: "We have... been urging continued security co-operation, that the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to work with one another on that. And we certainly would continue to urge that... in spite of, obviously, the tragedy and the enormous pain on the ground as a result."


    French President Francois Hollande has condemned the "cowardly murder" of the Israeli teens and offered his condolences to their families, the AFP news agency reports.

    Arthur Lenk, Israel's Ambassador to South Africa.

    tweets: Sadness for all in Israel at the terrible news. May the memories of #EyalGiladNaftali be a blessing.


    UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement that he was "deeply saddened" by the killings, describing them as an "appalling and inexcusable act of terror perpetrated against young teenagers".


    More official reaction from Israel, with President Shimon Peres saying: "As we learn the bitter news, the people of Israel grieve the untimely death of our fine young men. With deep sorrow, we remain determined to fiercely punish the criminal terrorist."


    The bodies of the teenagers are being transported to Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv for further examination, the Jerusalem Post reports.


    Israeli troops and police are out in force in the town of Halhul, near where the bodies were found.

    Israeli soldiers outside the town of Halhul near Hebron. 30 June 2014

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest says: "We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms violence that takes the lives of innocent civilians." Naftali Frenkel held dual Israeli-American citizenship.

    Dave Sharma, Australia's Ambassador to Israel

    tweets: Shocked, saddened & outraged at reports that bodies of 3 kidnapped boys have been found. Condemn their murder wholeheartedly.


    UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis describes the teenagers as "three precious souls, who were taken in the prime of their lives". "We stand at one with their families, teachers and friends," he says in a statement. "We pray for stability and security in the region and for the right of innocent men, women and children to live their lives in peace."


    Many Israelis have gathered outside the family home of one of the teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, in Elad to express their grief.

    Israelis gather in town of Elad, outside home of Eyal Yifrach. 30 June 2014

    The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says there is currently a delicate security operation going on in the darkness to try to piece together how these boys died, and when. He says he can see protest groups already forming, adding: "There will be huge anger at this outcome."

    President of Israel Shimon Peres

    tweets: At this difficult time my thoughts and prayers are with the family. #EyalGiladNaftali


    The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says it "strongly condemns" the abduction and killing of the three teenagers. "Deliberate targeting of civilians undermines all moral, legal and human principles," it adds. "The deliberate killing of civilians is defined as a grave breach of international humanitarian law, and cannot be justified, regardless of the circumstances."

    19:18: Breaking News

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells a meeting of the security cabinet that the teenagers were "kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals". He adds: "Our hearts bleed, the entire nation is crying with them."


    Benjamin Netanyahu adds: "We will bring the boys to be buried in Israel. Hamas is responsible - and Hamas will pay. May the memory of the three boys be blessed."

    Bill de Blasio Mayor of New York City

    tweets: "Deeply saddened and outraged by news of the tragic murders of #EyalGiladNaftali in Israel. NYC mourns them together with their families."


    The militant Islamist group Hamas, which has strongly denied any involvement in the abductions, warns that any retaliatory attack by Israel will open "the gates of hell".

    19:44: Yolande Knell BBC News, Jerusalem

    The site where the bodies were found is just 10 minutes' drive from where the teenagers were last seen two-and-a-half weeks ago. Israeli officials accuse the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas of killing the young Israelis. There are now calls for the group to be "eradicated".


    Israeli human rights group B'Tselem calls on the Israeli government to "refrain from acts of vengeance". "The deliberate harming of an entire civilian population as punishment for the actions of individuals is both illegal and immoral," a statement says.


    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says in an interview with al-Jazeera: "The enemy's threats against the Palestinian people do not scare us and we are ready to defend our people." Meanwhile, Hamas Political Bureau member Izzat Rishak declares: "Allah will guard Hebron, its women, men and heroes."


    Also reported on the Israeli news site Walla! Deputy Defence Minister, Dani Danon, is reported as saying: "This tragic end must also spell Hamas's end. The Israeli people are strong and ready to endure [pain] in order to allow an operation that will deal Hamas a fatal blow." - BBC Monitoring


    Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas has called an "emergency meeting" following the news about the missing Israeli teenagers, BBC Monitoring quotes Palestinian TV reports as saying.


    Young Israelis continue to gather outside the house of Eyal Yifrach - one the three missing teenagers - in Elad.

    Israelis gather on June 30, 2014 in the Israeli city of El"Ad, outside the house of Eyal Yifrach, one the three missing teenagers,

    The Vatican has condemned the killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank as a "hideous and unacceptable crime" and a obstacle to peace, news agency Reuters reports.

    Israeli police officers block a road with their police vehicles in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank

    Israeli police officers block a road with their vehicles in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank, while searches are carried out to try and gather evidence about the deaths of the three teenagers.


    Leader of the UK Labour party Ed Miliband tweets: "The murder of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach is awful news. This was an utterly reprehensible act of terrorism."

    20:31: The BBC's Yolande Knell

    reports: "There was a huge Israeli military operation across the West Bank to try to find the teenagers. It led to a sharp escalation in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. More than 400 Palestinians were arrested and five Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops."


    The Palestinian Ma'an news agency says on its website that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are preparing to demolish the homes of two Palestinian men suspected of kidnapping and killing the three Israeli teenagers, BBC Monitoring reports


    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri writes on Facebook: "The occupation bears responsibility for escalation. Netanyahu tries to turn the picture upside down and he must understand his threats do not terrify us. If he launched a war against Gaza, the gates of hell would be open on him."


    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issues a statement saying: "There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians. This heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench division and distrust and to widen the conflict. It must not be allowed to succeed."


    US President Barack Obama also offers his condolences, saying: "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth." Reuters reports that Mr Obama has offered US help to Israel and the Palestinians to find those responsible for the deaths of the abducted students. "I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilise the situation," he adds.

    Candles lit for abducted teens in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. 30 June 2014

    Candles have been lit in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, in memory of the three teenagers.


    President Obama added that as a father himself, he could not imagine the "indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing" Reuters reports.

    Soldiers in the village of Halhul, Israel

    Soldiers have been guarding the search area in the village of Halhul, where the bodies of the three abducted Israeli teenagers were found.


    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticised Arab-Israeli community leaders for failing to condemn the abduction of the teenagers, Israel Radio reported. "It concerns me deeply because these leaders are not willing to do even what [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas has done."

    Israelis pray and hold flags at the entrance to Halhul north of Hebron, West Bank

    Israelis pray and hold flags at the entrance to the town of Halhul where the bodies were found.


    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri tells Palestinian Al-Aqsa TV that Israel is using the deaths of the teenagers to "escalate the situation against our people and our resistance, and Hamas in particular", BBC Monitoring reports.


    Sami Abu-Zuhri adds that "the threats do not frighten Hamas, its leaders, or the other leaders of our Palestinian people. For our part, we are not interested in any confrontation. However, if this confrontation is imposed on us, the occupation should know that this time will not be like the previous ones. It should be willing pay a price that will be higher than any price paid in the past."


    Binyamin Proper, one of the civilian volunteers who found the bodies, told Channel 2 TV that a member of the search party "saw something suspicious on the ground, plants that looked out of place, moved them and moved some rocks and then found the bodies. We realised it was them and we called the army.''

    People lighting candles in memory of the three dead teenagers

    Israelis continue to light candles in memory of the teenagers, pictured here at a junction near the West Bank settlement of Efrat.


    That concludes today's live coverage following the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers abducted earlier this month in the West Bank. For further major breaking updates visit the BBC News web pages.


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