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Israel Says Bodies Of 3 Students Have Been Recovered

Israeli officials say they have found the bodies of three teens captured earlier this month.

Yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer,16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were kidnapped late at night on June 12 from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion. Fraenkel is a dual Israeli-American citizen.

"All of Israel mourns with these brave families who will forever hold a special place in the collective hearts of our nation," Deputy Minister of Defense Danny Danon said in a statement. "In their memories, we must ensure that this tragic end be turned into an opportunity to create a better and safer Israel."

The Israeli government launched sweeping searches after the kidnappings, which inflamed relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu accused Hamas of conducting the kidnappings and called on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to renege on a deal with the group to form a unity government.

Earlier today, The Times of Israel reported clashes between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinians in the village of Halhul in North Hebron. The New York Times reports the bodies were found buried in that area.

An unnamed Israeli official told the Times they won't know for sure if the bodies belong to the three teens until they finish the autopsy.

In a statement, the IDF says the bodies are currently in the process of being forensically identified and that the families of the teens have been notified.

Correspondent Daniel Estrin tells our Newscast unit that authorities are still looking for two prime suspects.

Update at 11:32 p.m. ET. Israeli Airstrikes

Israel launched an "especially intense series of airstrikes in Gaza" early Tuesday, the AP reported. The military said the attacks hit 34 targets and were fired in response to a hail of 18 rockets fired into Israel since late Sunday.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Update at 7:36 p.m. ET. Hamas Will Play:

At the start of an emergency cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas is responsible for the deaths of the boys and they will pay.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

"'We will bury the boys,' Netanyahu said. Then, paraphrasing Haim Nahman Bialik's famous line that 'Satan has not yet created vengeance for the blood of a small child,' he added, 'nor for the blood of pure teens that were on their way home to see their parents, and who will never see them again.'"

In a statement, President Obama offered his condolences. He statement goes on:

"As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth. From the outset, I have offered our full support to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice, and I encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue working together in that effort. I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation. As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.