It is with a heavy heart that we report Israeli security forces discovered the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, Naftali Frenkel, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach.
The bodies of the boys, who were kidnapped in Judea by Hamas terrorists on June 12, were found north of Hebron in a field on Monday, June 30th.
Forces discovered the bodies on Monday afternoon during an extensive search of a surrounding field.Upon discovery of the bodies, the area was immediately sealed off and declared a closed military zone.
According to initial reports, a search team lead by Yaron Rosenthal, head of the Kfar Etzion field school, along with elite IDF soldiers, discovered the bodies.
The bodies were found partially buried in a shallow grave at around 5 p.m. on Monday covered by rocks. Preliminary reports show that the boys were shot shortly after their kidnappings. The parents of the teens were informed of their sons’ deaths Monday evening.
According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2, the bodies were not in a good condition when they were found. “It was a harrowing sight,” the report stated.
Assessments from within Israel’s defense establishment believe that the kidnappers had initially planned to keep the boys alive. However, when they realized that Israel was conducting a man-hunt for the teens, they murdered the boys instead and fled into hiding.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency Security Cabinet session Monday evening where he confirmed that the boys had been found dead.
“With heavy grief, this evening we found three bodies. All signs indicate that they are the bodies of our three abducted youths – Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel,” the prime minister stated.
“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals. 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,” he promised.
Quoting Hebrew poet Haim Nahman Bialik, he went on to say, “’Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created.’ 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.”
On Thursday, Israel named two prime suspects, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, as the kidnappers. Members of Hamas, the two have been missing from their homes since the kidnappings took place.
Israeli security services have released a timeline of what they believe happened. The three teens were waiting at a hitchhiking junction west of the settlement of Alon Shvut around 10:15 pm on their way home from school to their families to celebrate the Sabbath.
Officials believe that the kidnappers, who pulled up in a Hyndai i35 that was later found burned, only thought they were kidnapping one teen. Not realizing that there were in fact three youths waiting to hitch a ride and that they would be outnumbered, the kidnappers panicked. Defense officials think this is what changed the act from kidnapping to murder.
Around 10:25 p.m. on June 12th, police received whispered call that said, “We’ve been kidnapped.” The call was transferred directly to a senior officer who questioned the caller but did not receive any replies.
An official record shows the call lasted 2:09 minutes and was then cut off. The officer tried calling the number eight more times. She received three busy signals and was sent to voicemail five times.
The officer thought she had received a prank call and did not pass on the information. Only seven hours later did it come to light that the three boys had indeed been kidnapped, setting off an 18 day manhunt as part of Operation Brothers Keeper.
After realizing a call to police had been made, the teens are thought to have been immediately shot by the kidnappers in the back seat of the car. After dumping the car and setting fire to it, the bodies were transferred to a second vehicle and hastily buried in a field near the Palestinian Halhul area.
The bodies were found about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where the boys were kidnapped. The remains of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were sent to forensic experts in Tel Aviv for official identification. Officials confirmed Tuesday morning that the bodies are positively identified as the three teens.
A report by The New York Times stated that three central clues led to the discovery of the teens bodies: a pair of smashed glasses, a sandal and a set of phylacteries.
The phylacteries were discovered by the IDF in the burned care. DNA samples taken from the car matched the parents of the murdered youth.
The sandal and glasses, which were found in a field near Hebron, belonged to Eyal Yifrach. Police matched the eyeglasses to a store in Yifrach’s hometown. When approached by police, the owner of the store told police, “I answered that this is a frame I sell. The next day police came back again with fragments of the lenses; the prescription matched the prescription we prepared fro Eyal,” Haaretz reported.
Eyal, Gilad and Naftali are to be buried alongside one another in Modiin on Tuesday afternoon.