On Tuesday, June 17th, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon took part in a situation assessment meeting today with officers from the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet), and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), according to an INN report.
Emphasizing the tenacity and persistence that Israel has placed on this missionto free the boys, Yaalon told reporters after the meeting, “Our main effort is to reach the hostages and the abductors, and we will not rest until this happens. We are continuing the operational and intelligence effort, in a complex operation that is not limited in locations and in time, as far as we are concerned, and this requires much patience.”
In statements geared toward reassuring the public that the government of Israel was utilizing every modality at their disposal to continue their search, Yaalon said, “Large scale forces are operating on the ground in order to continue the search, and at the same time, to carry out arrests of Hamas men and damage the organization’s infrastructure in Judea and Samaria.”
“Hamas in Judea and Samaria will pay a very heavy price following the abduction,” Yaalon stated. “We will place our hands on the abductors and we will know how to reach the heads of Hamas at any location and at any time. We will not compromise on the security of the citizens of Israel, and we will know how to take action with determination, responsibility and forethought.”
“I wish to strengthen the hands of the Sha’ar, Frenkel and Yifrah families at these difficult hours,” he added. “Our heart is with them. I want to strengthen the fighters and commanders of the IDF, the members of the Israel Police and Border police and the ISA people operating on the ground.”
On Thursday, June 12th, Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, Gilad Sha’ar, 16, from Talmon and Naftali Frenkel 16, from Nof Ayalon were abducted as they hitchhiked home from yeshiva. Two of the teens, Shaar and Frenkel, are students at the Makor Chaim yeshiva in the religious kibbutz of Kfar Etzion. They were thought to be hitchhiking to Modi’in, a city halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. When they did not arrive home or make contact with their families, the yeshiva informed the authorities. The third, Eyal Yifrah, was a student at the Shavey Hevron yeshiva in Hevron.
It was reported on Monday that some 40 more Hamas officials and terrorists were arrested in overnight raids, including former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Aziz Duwaik, 66, who was arrested in his home in Hebron.
Duweik is next in line to replace PA President Mahmoud Abbas as acting president of the Palestinian Unity Government (PUG) in case of an emergency. After the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, Duwaik was arrested and spent three years in Israeli prison. He was arrested again at least once after his release.
In total, some 150 Hamas members were arrested since the beginning of Operation “Bring Back our Boys” to find the missing teens.
In an operation in southern Hebron that has been crowned as a substantial breakthrough, an elite police unit surrounded a home with the intent of arresting the inhabitants. A gun fight broke out, during which the security forces used a special mini-projectile to breach the door. Two high-level Hamas terrorists were arrested at the conclusion of the battle.
Further military operations were conducted in Ramallah and Shechem. Arab sources reported that an Arab was killed by IDF fire during the searches, apparently after attacking the force.
Ynet reports that the cabinet met on Monday to discuss the possibility of exiling several Hamas leaders from Judea and Samaria to the Gaza Strip. A senior government official said Monday morning that “this option is being examined by the Attorney General. We want to deport a few officials to Gaza.”
“We are looking ahead at increasing the activity against Hamas, with an emphasis on the Hebron area, but this activity originates in northern Samaria. The closure in the southern Judea area continues,” a senior military official said. Among other things, Israel plans to shut down various institutions linked to Hamas and to prevent the transfer of funds.
Security forces are expected to exert further pressure on the terrorist infrastructure throughout Judea and Samaria, with the primary objective of locating the boys, while eradicating the existing network, thus preventing a recurrence of such devastating terror attacks.
On Tuesday, MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud-Beytenu), Chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, issued a call to round up and re-imprison terrorists whom Israel released from its jails in recent years in the Shalit deal and in “gestures” to the Palestinian Authority.
Elkin told Arutz Sheva that the current operation in Judea and Samaria is causing serious damage to Hamas’s infrastructure, from the political echelon to the operational forces on the ground.
He explained that the IDF’s activity has two goals. First, to reach the abducted youths – a mission he likened to “finding a needle in a haystack” – and second, changing the way the IDF treats Hamas and its men.
This is not enough, however, in his opinion.
“It would be right,” Elkin said, “to take all of the terrorists released in recent years – in the Shalit deal, and in the course of the last year, in the tranches – and put them back in jail, so that Hamas understands that when it carries out a terror abduction of children, the price of that will be many Hamas men in jail.”
Asked what the international reaction would be, Elkin noted that these terrorists were freed before completing their sentences, to that in terms of justice, they should still be in jail anyway.
The abduction also shows the nature of the Palestinian Authority’s unity government, he added. “If anyone had doubts and thought that this government would make Hamas more moderate, here came this criminal abduction and made clear to everyone that Hamas is a terror organization, continues to be a terror organization and intends to act as a terrorist organization.”
Elkin said Israel will stand firm. “We are not here because someone did us a favor, but by force of a Divine promise, and therefore we do not intend to leave this place and go to Europe, or be thrown into the sea, or any of the other offers that the PA leadership has made us. And if we stay here, we have to teach the other side that the game will be played according to the rules that we determine, and anyone acting against us will pay as steep a price as possible.”
MK Elkin’s words echo those of MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home), who said on Monday that the IDF should carry out arrests on a larger scale than those it is currently carrying out, and that those arrested should include terrorists who were freed in various deals and “gestures.” The Palestinian Arabs should be told that these prisoners will not be freed until the three teens are freed, she opined.
Israel must “put an end to this abduction game,” she said forcefully, and terrorists must be made to understand that the only ones who lose at this game are they themselves. “The state of Israel must do what is good for Israel. We cannot continue to be hostages of Palestinian terror. Israel must make clear that the only ones to lose out from abductions will be the terrorists, and never the state of Israel.”
A move like this is more realistic, just and responsible than idea like cutting off electricity to the Palestinian Authority population, and more humane as well.
“In a move like this, we do not act against women, children or sick people, only against terrorists,” she noted.
Also on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and told him, “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. 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.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu added, “The consequences of the partnership with Hamas must be understood; it is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians and bad for the region.”
In a statement Saturday night, Netanyahu said that ultimate responsibility for the return of the boys lay with Abbas. The Prime Minister said that he had “demanded that the Palestinian Authority, headed by Abu Mazen, from whose territory the kidnappers came, do whatever necessary to help the hostages get home safely. That is the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility.”
On Sunday morning, June 15, Racheli Frenkel, mother of Naftali described the gratitude that she and her family share for all those trying to bring her 16-year-old son home. “All the work that is being done by the Israeli security forces, the support of the American embassy in Tel Aviv, and the waves of prayers and support, we just request that this continue,” said Frenkel.
Naftali’s aunt, Ittael Fraenkel told Tazpit News Agency that “these are very hard days. But we are very optimistic. We know that everyone is doing everything they can to bring Naftali and the other two boys, Gilad and Eyal, home.”
“We really believe that with all this help and all the prayers that the country is praying for them, we hope to see them home soon,” Fraenkel told Tazpit.
“Naftali is an amazing kid; he’s really sweet – a combination of a serious kid and a fun kid.” The 16-year-old student, who studied in a highly regarded yeshiva, Makor Chaim, in Gush Etzion, was supposed to take a biology exam tomorrow, his aunt told Tazpit.
“We just want to see Naftali home – we miss him,” Frenkel said, tearing up.
The Frenkels, who are U.S. citizens and from New York, have been living in Nof Ayalon, a community of 430 families, for nearly 20 years.
Arutz Sheva reported that on Tuesday, all three families of the abducted boys released a joint statement to the press. ”We met today for the first time, the Yifrahs, Eyal’s parents; the Sha’ars, Gilad’s parents; and the Frenkels, Naftali’s parents,” the families said. “The meeting was very significant and important for us. We have met good people here and we are confident in the strength of the Creator of the Universe to bring the boys home.”
”We want to give our support for the security forces, who are working day and night to find the boys, the decision-makers, and the Prime Minister, who has been in constant contact with us,” they continued. “We pray that our soldiers will be safe and bring home our boys unharmed, and we are grateful to all those involved in this tremendous effort.”
”We feel a huge hug from the people of Israel, who accompanies us every hour – this strengthens us very much,” they concluded. “Please keep praying and doing good deeds.”
“To Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal: We love you and miss you. Be strong.”
Earlier Tuesday, the families held a joint meeting at the Frenkel family home in Nof Ayalon for the first time since the abduction.
Several MKs, religious officials, and members of the public have flocked to the families’ homes since news broke of the kidnapping Friday to comfort the families – but in this meeting, the families sat alone for over an hour, observers at the scene said.
“We will stay strong together,” one of the families reportedly said to the press, just before the meeting began.
According to most published reports, close to 30,000 people gathered at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Sunday night to join in a mass prayer vigil for the boys.
Jerusalem Online reported that the prayer ceremony was led by some of Israel’s top rabbinical figures including Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau. Rabbi Lau announced the convening of the Rabbinical Council of prayer for peace boys kidnapped. Assaf Yifrah, brother of Eyal Yifrah who is one of the three abducted Israeli teens, led a Psalm in one of the Song of Ascents, verse by verse as the crowd repeated after him. Among others who took part in the ceremony included other members of Israel’s Rabbinate, heads of various yeshivas, senior ministers, and other Knesset members.
Also in Tel Aviv on Sunday approximately700 people gathered for a prayer rally at Rabin Square which was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu of the city of Tzfat, and Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai.
One of the organizers of the rally, Itay Granek, said, “Since we learned of the abduction of the boys last Friday, the sound of prayer for their safety has been heard all over the country. Today we gathered also in the heart of Tel Aviv, both religious and secular residents, for a solidarity and prayer rally for their quick and safe return.”
In New York City, around 200 people gathered outside the Israeli consulate in midtown Manhattan on Monday afternoon to pray for the release of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped in Gush Etzion, in the Judea region south of Jerusalem last week.
The crowd, which included many students called for the safe release of the teens.
They held up photographs of the missing youths with the slogan #BringBackOurBoys, copied from the social media campaign “BringBackOurGirls” launched for more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram Islamists in Nigeria two months ago. The slogan has been adopted by Israelis in solidarity with the three teens kidnapped by the Islamist terrorist group Hamas.
Others held up placards accusing “Palestinian terrorists” of carrying out the kidnapping.