Bodies of missing Israeli students found in West Bank, reports say

The Israeli military has been searching for the three teenagers ever since they were abducted earlier this month.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Israeli Jewish religious students hug prior to a prayer at the synagogue where two of the missing Israeli teens studied, in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Etzion, Sunday, June 15, 2014.

Israeli security forces on Monday found the bodies of three teenagers who went missing in the West Bank earlier this month and confirmed them as the Israeli seminary students sought since June 12, Israeli media said.

Al Jazeera television, quoting Israeli sources, also reported that the bodies had been found and said the inner Israeli cabinet was to hold an emergency meeting later in the evening.

Israel has accused the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has its power base in the Gaza Strip, of being behind the abduction of the teenagers. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

Israel sent large forces to areas of the West Bank to look for Gil-Ad Shaer and US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19. The three went missing near a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces mounted, and have since sharply scaled back, a sweep through Palestinian towns and villages, mainly in and around the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Dozens of Hamas members have been detained.

Since the start of the Israeli operation, some 40 rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, the military said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon a reconciliation pact he sealed with Hamas in April, a deal that led to the creation on June 2 of a Palestinian unity government of technocrats.

Hamas has called for Israel's destruction, although various officials have at times indicated a willingness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire.

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