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Saturday, November 22, 2014

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Netanyahu seeks Abbas' help to retrieve kidnapped teens

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From left, Eyal Yifrach. Gilad Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas seeking his assistance in the return of three teens, believed to have been kidnapped by Hamas.

Monday’s conversation was the first between the two leaders in more than a year. Following the conversation, Abbas released a statement condemning the kidnapping, his first such statement, according to Ha’aretz.

“I expect you to assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers. The Hamas kidnappers came from territory under Palestinian Authority control and returned to territory under Palestinian Authority control,” Netanyahu told Abbas, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office. “This incident exposes the true face of the terrorism that we are fighting against. Terrorists abduct innocent Israeli children while we save the lives of ill Palestinian children in our hospitals. This is the difference between our humanitarian policy and the murderous terrorism that is attacking us.”

Netanyahu added, according to the statement: “The consequences of the partnership with Hamas must be understood; it is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for the region.”

The three Israeli teens, including one dual Israeli-American citizen, have been missing since the night of June 12. Eyal Yifrach, 19 Gilad Sha’ar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, were last seen trying to get rides home from a yeshiva high school in Gush Etzion, a group of settlements located south of Jerusalem.

In a statement given to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, Abbas “condemned the latest escalations in the West Bank, including the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers and the ongoing series of violations by Israeli soldiers and settlers, against innocent Palestinian civilians and against prisoners held in Israeli jails.”

The statement called on all sides to refrain from violence, and restated Abbas’ position “to continue with the extensive efforts to ensure the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails when a final peace deal with Israel is signed.”

Also Monday, the Israel Defence Forces’ spokesperson’s unit called on the Israeli public to “behave responsibly and not take part in the promotion of unsubstantiated rumours” on social media including Facebook and Twitter.

The IDF also confirmed Monday that Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian the previous day near Ramallah after the troops came under attack from Palestinian rioters during a raid of a Hamas target.

The Palestinian was killed as he attempted to throw a brick at Israeli soldiers, according to the IDF.

The International Red Cross on Sunday night called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the three Israeli teens.

“We are very concerned by the fate of the teenagers. International humanitarian law prohibits abduction as well as the taking of hostages,” said Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations in the Middle East. “They must be treated humanely, and their lives and dignity protected and respected.”

In a statement, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird condemned the kidnappings.

“We call for the immediate release of the three Israeli teenagers. Whoever has taken this action must be found and brought to justice,” he said.

“We urge the Palestinian security authorities, who have been trained through Canadian and U.S. leadership, to make every effort to investigate this incident and work diligently to ensure the safe return of these children to their families.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also called for the immediate release of the teens and noted the “many indications” pointing to Hamas’ involvement.

In a statement Sunday, more than 48 hours after the teens’ abduction, Kerry said he “strongly condemns” the kidnapping and reiterated that Hamas is a “terrorist organization.”

Kerry said U.S. officials “continue to offer our full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and we have encouraged full co-operation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services.” Along with calling for their immediate release, he said the United States hopes for “their quick and safe return home.”

He said the United States continues to “seek details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement.”

“We reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past,” Kerry said.

On Sunday, thousands gathered at the Western Wall to pray for the safe return of the three teens.

More than 25,000 people attended the Sunday evening service led by Chief Rabbi David Lau. Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef also was at the service, as were members of the Chief Rabbinate council and Knesset members.

“We prove to our enemies that the nation of Israel is alive and will never be broken,” Rabbi Lau said at the service. “Everyone gathered here at the Kotel as one, with one heart, unified in a prayer for the safety of the kidnapped, that they will be swiftly returned to their families.”

A Facebook page dedicated to the return of the teens, Bring Back Our Boys, has garnered more than 64,600 likes since its establishment on Friday.

Talmud scholar Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, founder of the yeshiva high school attended by two of the three kidnapped teens, called on Jews to recite psalms, and pray for their safe return.

In a statement Sunday, Rabbi Steinsaltz called the kidnapping of the students “a shocking, painful and frightening event.

“In a time and place that had seemed to us quiet and serene, we have been thrown into an event that we can do nothing to resolve,” he said.

In Canada, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said, “the entire Jewish community [is] praying for the rescue and safe return of the boys.”

Added co-chair Rabbi Baruch Frydman Kohl: “our concern now is with reuniting the boys with their families. We invite members of the Jewish community, other religious communities, and people of goodwill everywhere to join us in prayer to support those who are living through this traumatic ordeal.” n

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