Please say Tehillim for
Yaakov Naftali Ben Rochel Devorah
Gilad Michoel ben Bat Galim
Eyal ben Iris Teshura
Update Friday 1:43 pm
An extremist Salafist organization in the West Bank is claiming responsibility for kidnapping three missing Israeli youths, Channel 10 is reporting.
The organization, Dawlat al-Islam, released a statement saying that the abductions were aimed at taking revenge against Israel for the killing of three of their operatives in the West Bank months ago.
Update Friday 12:00 pm
Three teenagers hitchhiking in the West Bank have been missing since Thursday night and are feared to have been kidnapped, security officials said. Two of the youths are 16 years old, and the third is 19. One of the teens reportedly holds U.S. citizenship.
Large forces, including the Border Police and the Israel Police, are searching for the teens around Hebron. A command center was set up at the entrance to Kiryat Arba in the West Bank, and roadblocks have been erected in the area.
The teens, students at the Makor Chaim yeshiva, 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.
According to an official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, “Israel sees the PA as responsible for the well-being of the kidnapped,” adding that Netanyahu spoke with the families of the three missing teens and pledged he would do all in his power to locate them.
“I know you are suffering,” Netanyahu told the families. “Be strong, the State of Israel will make every effort for your sons, and I promise to remain in contact with you.”
Netanyahu ordered government ministers not to give interviews on the matter.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro has also been briefed that one of the missing teens reportedly holds U.S. citizenship.
Update Friday 10:28 am: Unlike rumors circulating on blogs and social media, latest reports indicate the bochurim have not been rescued as of yet, stay tuned to COLlive for updates.
Israeli security forces have been scanning the Bethlehem and Hebron area on Friday after three yeshiva students went missing last night. Police was also checking whether there was a connection between a burnt car that was discovered near Hebron and the disappeared teens.
The Shin Bet and the IDF’s Central Command are treating the teens’ disappearance as a kidnapping by terrorists, because, among other things, their cell phones stopped broadcasting location signals at the same location they were last seen – between Kfar Etzion and the settlement Alon Shvut.
Large security forces were scanning open areas in Gush Etzion – on foot, by car and using advance observation devices.
Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that Israeli security forces were combing through southern Hebron. According to the report, the army set up roadblocks in several spots, and IDF forces raided some houses and made a few arrests. At the same time, Israeli drones were reportedly seen flying over the southern part of Mount Hebron.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz instructed all relevant army units, including a unit dealing with hostage situations, to raise their level of alert and prepare for any scenario.
“The goal is to figure out what happened before they disappeared, to investigate our way backwards. So far, we haven’t found any items belonging to the two out on the field,” a senior army source said.
He added that the search was now focusing on the intelligence front, and that the IDF, Police and Shin Bet were holding a situation evaluation every few hours.
A relative of one of the missing teens said the families received an update from the IDF and police about the disappearance.
“He just disappeared, never made it home,” the relative said. “His parents are worried, praying, hoping for the best. We’re all praying this incident ends on the good side.”
A spokesman for a settlement in which one of the missing teens resides said that during the night, when the son failed to return home and didn’t answer his phone, his father reported him missing to the police. At the same time, family members were searching for the teen at his friends’ houses.
“At 8 am we received texts. We were asked if we knew where the boy was and we were asked to wake up our children to see if he’s staying over at one of the homes,” the spokesman said.
At first the family members thought the teen had just forgotten his keys and went to sleep at a friend’s house, as he had done before.
“As soon as we realized he was nowhere to be found, the atmosphere in the settlement became very grave. People were hiding in their homes… we opened an operations room to provide residents with information, and organized a mass prayer and read from the Book of Songs so this incident ends on a good side,” the spokesman continued.
The spokesman added that yeshiva students often make the journey from Alon Shvut to the Gush Etzion junction and from there to Jerusalem, and onto the settlement via Shiloh junction.
The IDF is examining whether the teens tried to hitch a ride in the Etzion area, not far from the Gush Etzion junction, an area where many settlers hitchhike despite army warnings and repeated alerts on terror organizations planning to commit a kidnapping.
In recent weeks, the Shin Bet exposed several attempts by terror cells to kidnap Israeli soldiers or civilians in order to use them as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jail.