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Israeli Troops Intensify Search for Kidnapped Teens

The teens were believed to be hitchhiking to the city of Modi'in when they went missing, local media reported.

by Liz Fields
Jun 14 2014, 6:20pm

Photo via AP

Israeli troops sent to the West Bank have intensified searches for three teens who disappeared late Thursday night, one of which is a dual US citizen, according to reports.

The three male teens identified as Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, from Talmon and Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, seminary students at a Jewish settlement bloc, are thought to have been abducted by Palestinians, officials said.

The teens were believed to be hitchhiking to the city of Modi'in when they went missing, local media reported.

Authorities are investigating any links to the shell of a burnt-out stolen vehicle found near the neighboring Palestinian city of Hebron early Friday morning.

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The Israeli military began conducting door-to-door searches on Friday morning in Hebron, in the West Bank, and surrounding villages, which carried on into the weekend.

Three teenagers went missing while hitchhiking in the West Bank on June 12 and were feared kidnapped. Credit: YouTube/idfnadesk

Approximately 300 Hebron locals were prevented from leaving the town, and at least 12 of them were arrested, according to Palestinian officials and witnesses.

It is not known whether the missing teens are dead or alive, and Israeli military officials are conducting the search based on the "working assumption" that the boys are alive and were taken by Palestinians.

Footage shows Israeli soldiers conducting a nighttime search. Credit: YouTube/idfnadesk

In the following footage, an IDF spokesperson assured that a military operation was in force to find the missing boys. Credit: YouTube/idfnadesk

"We can't confirm if they are alive or dead. We don't know at this time," said Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who told reporters that Israel had thwarted 14 abduction attempts of its citizens by Palestinians this year alone.

"It seems that this event got in under our radar," he said.

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Palestinian forces are currently "working closely together" with Israel in the search, the US State Department said Friday.

The collaborative move by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has angered Islamist militant group Hamas, who remain hostile toward Israel and have lauded the teens' suspected kidnappers as "heroes."

"Security coordination between (Palestinian Prime Minister Rami) Hamdallah's and Abbas's security services and the enemy to locate the heroes of the Hebron operation and arrest them is a moral stain," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters.

Tensions between Israel and Palestine have been mounting since Abbas brokered a reconciliatory power sharing arrangement in April with Hamas, which governs the Gaza strip.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who broke off peace talks with Abbas over the agreement with Hamas, said he would hold the Palestinian leader's administration solely liable for the outcome of the suspected kidnapping.

An unidentified Israeli military source told Reuters that a "significant" number of troops, including a paratrooper brigade are now being dispatched to Hebron, a Hamas stronghold, and surrounding area to assist with the searches.

"We need more boots on the ground to deal with this serious development," the source said. "We need to be able to track them down, we need to use all of the capabilities at our hands in order to bring this to a quick end."

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields