TEL AVIV – Finding the dead bodies of three disappeared Israeli teenagers, Israel has vowed retribution against Hamas, launching dozens of air strikes on Gaza strip over night that left scores of civilians injured or killed.
“Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the youths and we know how to settle accounts with them,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon was quoted by Agencie France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, July 1.
“We will continue to hunt the killers of the youngsters, we will not rest nor will we be silent until we lay our hands on them.”
The bodies of Israeli teenagers, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, were found in West Bank on Monday evening.
According to one of the civilians, the bodies were covered with a pile of branches and stones.
“It was a very isolated area, more or less at the end of the world,” Benny Truper told army radio.
In retaliation, about 34 targets in Gaza were pounded by Israel over Monday and Tuesday, killing two Palestinians and injuring four.
“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at the start of an emergency security cabinet meeting on Monday evening.
“Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay.”
Since the kidnapping of the three teenagers earlier this month, Israeli occupation forces have been storming the West Bank, arresting hundreds of Palestinians.
Though no authority has claimed responsibility for the presumed kidnapping, Israeli media speculated the three may have been kidnapped by Hamas.
The abduction of the Israeli teenagers was condemned by the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who said that his security will be “cooperating” with Israel to find the teenagers.
At least 419 people were detained, including 276 Hamas members and others who were freed during a prisoner swap deal to release soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
'Gates of Hell'
Hamas has reiterated denial of being behind the kidnapping and killing of the teenagers.
The group has accused Israel of exploiting the situation to wage war against Palestinians.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned that Israel would “pay a price” for any aggression which would “open the gates of hell”.
“We warn Israel against any stupid action. If Israel wants a war, the price they will pay will be greater than in previous wars,” Hamas said.
Denouncing the death of the teenagers, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership.
“We wanted peace to be created in this part of the world so no mother or no family will be bereaved for the loss of their beloved ones, Palestinian or Israeli,” his spokesman Abdallah Abdallah was quoted by BBC.
Israeli's crackdown on the occupied lands is expected to be intensified in the coming days.
Israeli politicians are inciting their government to take the reprisal to a higher level that includes “targeted assassination” of Hamas members.
“I don’t know how many leaders of Hamas will remain alive after tonight,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister, was quoted by Al Jazeera.
According to Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO's, “Israeli escalation already took place, and now they have an excuse of further escalation.”
Last week, the United Nations has vehemently condemned the ongoing detentions and the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli security forces while search for the missing teens.
The kidnapping, though not proved, would not have been the first in the occupied lands.
In 2006, Israeli army soldier Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner during a cross-border raid by Palestinian resistance groups.
Following his capture, Israel imposed a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip, home to 1.8 million Palestinians, badly affecting livelihood in the seaside enclave.
Israel also launched a three-week deadly offensive on Gaza, which left thousands of people killed and injured and destroyed thousands of houses.
Shalit was released in 2005 under a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas, under which more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were freed.
Related Links:UN Slams Israel over Palestinians’ Killings
Israel Combs West Bank for Missing Israelis
Shalit Invite Angers Barcelona Muslim Fans
Jubilant Gazans Celebrate Prisoner Swap
Hamas Frees Captured Israeli Soldier