LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

The bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped on their way home from religious school more than two weeks were found shot to death Monday, the Israeli Embassy confirmed.

'They were found in a city called Halhul north of Hebron' in the West Bank, said Jonny Daniels, an adviser to Israel's deputy defense minister, Danny Danon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting with his security Cabinet to discuss how Israel will respond, Daniels said.

'Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,' Netanyahu said in a statement. He added that the teenagers 'were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by wild beasts.'

Danon called on the international community 'to end all aid to the Palestinian Authority and its Hamas-backed government.' Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas 'cannot continue to claim to want peace with Israel, while at the same time partnering with Hamas as they kidnap and brutally murder teenagers.'

Tensions have been high between Israel and Hamas since the June 12 kidnappings, which came 10 days after Abbas and his Fatah Party that rules the West Bank formed a unity government with Hamas, which controls Gaza. Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist group, strongly opposes the union.

The news of the teens' deaths gripped the nation, Daniels said.

'It really is a shock,' he said. 'You can hear people even in the bars and clubs are turning off the World Cup to turn on the news.'

The students, Naftali Fraenkel, who has dual Israeli-American citizenship, and Gilad Shaar, both 16, along with Eyal Yifrach, 19, disappeared while hitchhiking home, prompting the Israeli military to carry out one of the biggest sweeps of the West Bank in a decade.

'With great sadness we must announce the bodies of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali have been found near Hebron. Our thoughts are with their families,' the Israeli Embassy in Washington said in a statement.

Israel's domestic security agency has already named two Palestinian suspects in the abductions Marwan Kawasma and Amer Abu Aysha, who are described as operatives in the Islamist militant group Hamas.

'There is no mercy for the murderers of children. This is the time for action, not words,' Naftali Bennett, the hawkish minister of finance and a supporter of building Israeli settlements, told IBA News.

Yuli Edelstein, speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, said, 'It's time for Israel to wage an unrelenting war against terror in general and Hamas in particular. The Palestinian Authority should realize Hamas will bring them to destruction.'

A large Israeli military force had assembled north of Hebron on the West Bank Monday evening in search of the missing teens, Haaretz reported.

A committee investigating the teens disappearance said Monday that it found a 'severe failure of conduct' by operators of the Judea and Samaria police emergency hotline on the night of the kidnappings.

Several officers were immediately dismissed over what the investigating committee described as a 'mishandling of the telephone call received at the center, as far as the professional standards expected from emergency hotline operators on all levels, and which included all the ranks: police, officers and commanders involved,' Haaretz reported.

According to the committee's report, a telephone call was made to the police at around 10:25 p.m. by one of the abducted teens who said, in a soft voice, 'I have been kidnapped.'

The report says those on duty tried to speak with the teen and called back a traced number no less than eight times but, in the end, a manager and shift supervisor decided not to look into the call any further.

Israeli security forces searching for the teens have raided more than a 1,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank and rounded up hundreds of Palestinians, including senior Hamas leaders, and prisoners recently released to advance U.S.-brokered peace talks that later failed. Five Palestinians have died in clashes over the rescue operation.

Since June 27, militants have fired at least 30 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel, including four intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, according to AFP. The Israeli air force has struck back killing three Palestinians.

At least 15 rockets were fired at Israel Sunday night after Israel launched airstrikes against suspected Hamas rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and Sunday, killing a member of the Hamas military wing, according to the militant group. Rockets fired from the Palestinian territory into Israel damaged a home and set a fire Saturday in a plastics factory in the Israeli town of Sderot, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Earlier Monday, Israeli leaders said they will launch an invasion of the Gaza Strip if necessary to stop renewed rocket fire from the coastal area controlled by Hamas.

Netanyahu told members of his security Cabinet that either Hamas will end the rocket fire from Gaza or Israeli forces will do so, like they did in 2012, in a miniwar that Israel dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense.

'I say in the clearest way possible, if the quiet that was achieved after Operation Pillar of Defense will be breached and the firing continues, there are two options either Hamas will stop it, or we will stop it,' Netanyahu said, according to Israeli TV station Arutz Sheva. 'We will not allow the continuation of this (rocket) firing.'

The 2012 operation involved eight days of Israeli airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza and was intended to stop rocket fire on communities in southern Israel. It ended before a threatened invasion with a truce brokered by Egypt. Sporadic rocket fire from Gaza continued, but the majority of those attacks were claimed by terrorist factions other than Hamas, Arutz Sheva TV reported.

Reserve Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser in Israel, told Israeli radio Reshet Bet that ground action is likely in the coming days if the situation doesn't calm down.

'I estimate that there will be an Israeli action, or at least there will be a call for an Israeli action that is much more massive like Operation Pillar of Defense maybe even bigger than it, in order to achieve a renewed deterrence for another period of a year or two,' Eiland said.

Read or Share this story: http://www.wvec.com/story/news/2014/09/10/14873444/