Israeli officials announced Monday evening that the bodies of three Israeli teenagers – kidnapped earlier this month by terrorists affiliated with Hamas – had been found north of the West Bank town of Hebron.
Searches for the boys had been ongoing for weeks, and the developments opened up a flood of new details regarding the initial abduction. Buzzfeed reported that Israeli officials had known almost immediately that the kidnapping had involved a likely murder:
BuzzFeed spoke to an Israeli official involved in the case, who confirmed that during the police call a gunshot can clearly be heard. The car, he added, had clear evidence of foul play. Over the last week. Israeli soldiers could be seen digging through rocks and dredging wells in Hebron in the search for the teens.
“We have been operating, for some time now, with evidence that these boys were killed,” he said. “It is with a heavy heart that we realized we were looking for bodies.”
Washington Institute Senior Fellow Matt Levitt contextualized the news against the backdrop of Palestinian boasts – which had become something of a mainstay on social media – that the Israeli victims would be traded for Palestinian prisoners. The request had never been made:
Reports that gunshot could be heard in kidnapped boys’ 911 call, blood found in kidnap vehicle, explains no demand 2 release Pal prisonser
— Matthew Levitt (@Levitt_Matt) June 30, 2014
The developments were also quickly read against the backdrop of ongoing controversy regarding the Obama administration’s decision – made a few weeks prior to the kidnapping – to extend support to a Palestinian unity government jointly agreed upon by Hamas and its traditional rivals in the Fatah faction. The Washington Free Beacon conveyed brutal assessments from DC analysts:
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S Treasury Department, told the Washington Free Beacon. “In recognizing the unity government, the U.S. helped establish in Gaza the Hezbollah model, which is a unified weak central government that allows a terrorist organization to operate with impunity inside,” Schanzer said. “That’s exactly what we’re seeing right now. In the same way the Lebanese can’t stop Hezbollah, the Palestinians can’t stop Hamas.”…
Top State Department officials were warned in advance that its backing for the unity government could prove ill advised and embolden Hamas, according to one senior official with a pro-Israel organization who requested anonymity to discuss the situation. “Everybody in the Middle East not aligned with Iran—the Israelis, the Egyptians, the Gulf States—told the State Department to steer clear of Hamas,” the official said. But instead the administration’s envoy Martin Indyk worked with the Palestinians to bring Hamas into the Palestinian government. Less than a month later, Hamas has conducted spectacular attacks in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and we’re on the brink of a mass war,” said the souce. “That’s what comes from putting reckless, hostile partisans in charge of America’s Middle East policy.”
Top Fatah officials had previous said that any Hamas involvement in the kidnapping would “mark the crossing of a red line,” and would force them to abrogate the unity agreement.
The developments come a day after Hamas fighters launched more than a dozen rockets at Israeli communities, the first time the group has officially taken credit for such launches since November 2012.
[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube]