Missing Israeli teens found dead

Israeli-teenagers

The three Israeli teenagers who went missing earlier this month in the West Bank have been found dead.

An Israeli military spokesman said their bodies were found in a pit near the town of Halhul, north of Hebron.

Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both aged 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach were last seen at a junction near Hebron as they hitchhiked home.

Israel had accused Hamas of abducting the three teens, which the Palestinian militant group repeatedly denied.

The teenagers’ families have been informed, the military said. More information is expected to be released after an emergency cabinet meeting.

The Israeli military has set up blockades and closed down whole areas around Halhul, which is just a few kilometres from where the teenagers were last seen.

The disappearance of the three Jewish seminary students sparked a huge search operation in Palestinian towns and cities.

More than 400 Palestinians have been arrested, while five Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Earlier, Israeli television showed large numbers of Israeli security forces personnel deployed around Halhul.

There have been reports of clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the area.

Last week, the Israeli military identified two men from Hebron as its main suspects and said they were associated with Hamas, leading Hamas to again deny that it had anything to do with the teenagers’ disappearance.

The case has put serious strain on relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the incident is a consequence of “the partnership” between Hamas and the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two signed a reconciliation deal in April after years of division and formed a unity government earlier this month.