Palestinians Suspected of Kidnapping and Killing 3 Israeli Teens in Prelude to War Shot Dead

Israel teens
Three Israeli seminary students (from L-R) Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who also holds U.S. citizenship, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, are seen in this combination picture of undated family handout photos released June 16, 2014. |

Two Palestinians suspected of kidnapping and killing three Israeli teens in the West Bank earlier this summer, which served as a prelude to the Israeli-Hamas war, have been shot dead by Israeli security forces.

"We were determined in bringing the ruthless murderers of Gil-Ad, Eyal and Naftali to justice," said Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner, according to CNN. "Today's successful mission brings the long-term search to an end, and the perpetrators of the crime no longer pose a threat to Israeli civilians."

BBC News said that two men, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, were being hunted down by security forces in the city of Hebron when they opened fire on Israeli forces, which led to the shootout.

The men were suspected of killing Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frankel, a 16-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, who were kidnapped in June from the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in the West Bank.

The bodies of the teens were later discovered north of the Hebron, sparking outrage across Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time: "[The teens] were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals. In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families, to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters, our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them."

An escalation of violence followed between Israel and Hamas, with the Palestinian group launching rockets at Israel's southern communities, while Israel retaliated with air force bombings of 34 targets in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied that Hamas was responsible for the men involved in the killings, saying that "No Palestinian group, Hamas or any other group, has taken responsibility for the action, and thus the Israeli version can't be trusted."

But Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon insisted that the blame lies in Hamas:

"We see Hamas responsible for the kidnappings and murders. We will continue to pursue the murderers of the teens and will not rest until we lay our hands on them."

Later a Hamas official reportedly admitted that Qawasmeh and Aisha were militants within the group, but said that they had not told their leader about their actions.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said following the killings of the suspects: "We promised the [teenagers'] families that we would find the murderers. This morning, we did just that."

"This isn't a consolation for the grieving families," he added, "but I hope that knowing we reached their children's murderers may slightly comfort them."

The deaths of the Israeli teens had sparked a global outpouring of sympathy, with the Vatican also calling the killings "terrible and dramatic."

"The assassination of innocent persons is always despicable and unacceptable, and a very serious obstacle to that peace to which we must continue untiringly to commit ourselves and for which we must pray," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

The 50-day conflict in the Gaza Strip resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people, mostly civilians, before a long-term ceasefire was agreed to in late August.

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