Monday, June 16, 2014

LIVE BLOG: The search for the kidnapped teens


Follow all the latest updates on the search for yeshiva students Gilad Sha'ar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel here.

Missing yeshiva students (left to right) Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frankel. Photo: Courtesy
Yeshiva students Gilad Sha'ar,16, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Naftali Frankel, 16 were kidnapped by terrorists late Thursday night from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion.

Here are the latest updates:

05:50 A.M.   Israeli forces searching for three teenagers believed to have been kidnapped swept into a second West Bank city on Monday, touching off street confrontations in which they killed a Palestinian, witnesses and hospital officials said.

The bloodshed near the de facto Palestinian capital of Ramallah marked an escalation in a dragnet which risks ensnaring US-backed President Mahmoud Abbas though it targets Hamas, Islamist rivals with which he agreed a power-share in April.

Witnesses said Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers conducting house-to-house searches in al-Jilazoun refugee camp, outside Ramallah, before dawn. Army gunfire killed a 20-year-old Palestinian and wounded another, hospital officials said.

The military, which had announced plans to step up its West Bank operations to locate the three Israeli teens who disappeared after leaving a Jewish settlement on Thursday, did not immediately comment on the al-Jilazoun incident. (Reuters)

05:15 A.M.  Palestinian hospital officials are quoted as telling the AFP news service on Monday that a Palestinian was killed by the IDF near Ramallah.

There is no independent confirmation of this claim.

03:35 A.M.  The Israel Air Force struck numerous targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket fire by Palestinian rejectionist groups, Israel Radio reported.

There is no word regarding casualties.

01:33 A.M.  Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Israel's coordinator of government activities in the Palestinian territories (COGAT) told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an late Sunday that the army possesses a "great deal of information" about the kidnapping of the three Jewish teens.

Mordechai would not elaborate, though he did add that the IDF would continue to surround Hebron in accordance with the latest developments in the pursuit of the kidnapped youths.

12:46 A.M.  Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Channel 2 on Sunday that "from all indications," it is unlikely that the kidnappings of three teens in the West Bank will develop into a situation whereby Israel negotiates a prisoner swap with the captors.

12:16 A.M.   Palestinian sources told Israel Radio that two Hamas operatives were arrested after the IDF surrounded their home in the southern part of Hebron. Hamas television claimed that the IDF used a missile to break into the home, and that special forces also took part in the operation. Two Palestinians were wounded in the incident.

10:38 P.M. Gunfire and a blast were heard as Israeli troops searching Hebron for three Israeli teenagers abducted by terrorists surrounded a house on Sunday, witnesses said.

Witnesses also reported that the IDF fired a rocket at the house.

9:05 P.M. Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan told Channel 2 on Sunday that Palestinian Authority security forces were "willingly" helping in the search for three yeshiva students who were kidnapped on Thursday night.
Palestinian authorities acknowledged the cooperation, drawing Hamas censure.

Erdan played down, however, the role of a Palestinian administration, saying the recovery of the teenagers and the handling of their captors would be "almost entirely based on the Israeli military and security services."

8:30 P.M. Insp.-General Yohanan Danino responds to media criticism for the police's apparent delay in passing on information to the IDF when one of the kidnapped boys was able to place a call to police dispatch saying, "We've been kidnapped."

Danino stated to the media that the time for self-criticism and investigating mistakes will come later and that right now all efforts must be focused on finding the kidnapped boys and bringing them home.

8:05 P.M. The mother of Gilad Sha'ar spoke to the public on Sunday for the first time since her son disappeared.

She thanked the public for its support as well as the soldiers and security forces currently looking for the three boys in the West Bank. "The army, the prime minister and our politicians are doing everything they can and I thank you," she said.

8:00 P.M.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara and many Israeli politicians visit the families of the three boys,  Naphtali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yiftach, 19.

“We’re all praying for your sons to return homes quickly and safely,” she tells them.

7:36 P.M. Widespread manhunts are continuing in full force to locate the three Israeli teenagers who went missing on Thursday night, IDF spokesman Moti Almoz said on Sunday evening.

"We are operating in large volumes in order to be successful. During the past day we extended the operations and arrested dozens of Hamas members," he said in a brief address to the press. "We will continue to operate in the entire territory, we will spare no effort as our aim is to return the boys."

7:00 P.M. US Secretary of State John Kerry came out with harsh words for those responsible for the abduction of three Israeli teen boys over the weekend, calling the event a "despicable terrorist act."

"The United States strongly condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release," Kerry said in a statement. "We continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services. We understand that cooperation is ongoing."

6:45 P.M. REVEALED: One of the three boys kidnapped in the West Bank on Thursday night managed to tell police "we've been kidnapped" but the report was still not given to security sources for hours,the military censor clears for publication on Sunday afternoon.

The call was made to police dispatch around 10:30 p.m. but it was only as much as five hours later before security services were notified.

4:37 P.M. Finance Minister Yair Lapid says that Israel has a zero tolerance policy for terrorism and severely punishes it perpetrators.

“I urge the public to stand united behind the security forces as they complete their task using all means necessary at their disposal,” he says.

4:16 P.M.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, during a visit to Ghana on Sunday, tells Ghana’s Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh that Israel hoped to bring the kidnapped teens home without a show of force, but added, that in the end the government would “do everything necessary to bring them home.”

P.M. Palestinian report: Egypt is reportedly taking measures to help clarify events surrounding the abduction of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and mediate for their release, a senior Egyptian official told Palestinian news agency Ma'an on Sunday.

According to the report, Egyptian security forces are conducting talks with Palestinian officials, in attempts to open channels of communication with various Palestinian terror groups, particularly Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

The Egyptian source told Ma'an that the situation is likely to be resolved soon.

3:38 P.M.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterates on Sunday afternoon his accusation that Hamas members were the perpetrators of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, despite the terror organization's denial of responsibility for the incident.

"Hamas denials do not change this fact," Netanyahu says in a statement.

3:05 P.M.
A senior military official says the IDF believes the boys are still in the West Bank.

"We have assessed that the hostages were not transferred to Gaza or Sinai," the official was quoted by Israel Radio as saying. "We were prepared for this eventuality and we will use all of the means in our possession to locate them."

1:40 P.M.
Rachel Frankel, the mother of Naftali Frankel of Nof Ayalon, speaks with the press on Sunday afternoon for the first time, saying, "Naftali, we love you endlessly and the people of Israel are working day and night to bring you home."

12:55 P.M.
In the wake of reports that police failed to notify security forces promptly after receiving a distress call, police release a statement saying they will not deny or confirm reports which are the responsibility of the news outlets themselves. Sunday's statement echoes their Saturday night statement, when they said they were focusing only on the investigation at the moment rather than dealing with rumors.

12:38 P.M.
The IDF has called up a limited number of reserves as the military operation to rescue three kidnapped Israelis in the West Bank continues to grow. The call up is small in scope at this stage. 
Also, the air force deploys a number of Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in southern Israel. 

12:18 P.M.
Hamas official denies group's involvement in kidnapping, calls Netanyahu's accusations "stupid" according to Palestinian news agency Ma'an.

12:00 P.M.
Two senior Hamas officials have been missing since Thursday, Israel Radio reports. Security forces are investigating their connection to the kidnapping.

11:25 A.M.
Prayer services are to be held at some 700 religious schools at 11:30 a.m. for the three teens.

Organizers say the largest prayer service was scheduled for the Makor Chaim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion in the West Bank where two of the abducted teens Naftali Frankel and Gilad Sha'ar study. Another prayer service is taking place at the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva in Hebron where Eyal Yifrach is enrolled.

10:59 A.M. Hamas is behind the kidnapping of the three teenagers late Thursday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says at weekly cabinet meeting.

10:50 A.M. Prayer services will be held at some 700 religious schools at 11:30 in the morning on Sunday for the three teens.

10:44 A.M.  Jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard releases a statement on the kidnapping: "In the depths of Gehinom, Jonathan Pollard is davening for the safe return of our 3 boys who were kidnapped on Thursday by a blood-thirsty Palestinian terrorist cell," the statement said.

"Jonathan urges everyone to drop what you are doing and to pray urgently for the immediate rescue and safe return home of our kidnapped boys, alive, healthy and unharmed."

9:00 A.M.
Hamas leaders Hassan Yousef, Wasfi Qabaha, Khaled Abu Arafeh and Mohammed Totah are among 80 arrested by IDF, according to Palestinian media reports.

7:00 A.M.
The IDF arrests 80 Hamas members - including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council - in a massive wave of raids throughout the West Bank.

While suspicions appear to be falling on Hamas as being behind the abduction,a security source says the wave of arrests does not mean that Hamas definitely carried it out.

6:50 A.M. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett tells the families of the three kidnapped youth that the government will turn over every rock in order to bring your children home.

"Kidnapping children will not be an event that passes quietly and it will be clear to all groups involved, the terrorists those that sent them and those that support them, that such operations do not pay," the Bayit Yehudi minister says.

"We will respond with an iron fist to terror. This is the time for the entire nation of Israel to increase our prayers and to stay unified, determined and strong. We will not be broken," he adds. 

6:45 A.M. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli yeshiva students and expresses his solidarity with the youngsters' families, calling for their immediate release.

Moon urges all sides to exercise restraint and to lend support for the release and safe return of the boys.

1:00 A.M. From the Western Wall in Jerusalem to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, thousands of people hold prayer services for the safe return of the three captive teens.

12:15 A.M. A curfew is put in place for the Hebron area beginning at midnight Sunday. Additionally, all Gaza checkpoints are closed.

Exceptions are being made for emergency medical and humanitarian purposes.   

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