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'Hamas will pay'

July 1, 2014

The Israeli government has blamed Hamas for the murder of three Israeli teenagers. Security forces found their bodies in the West Bank after a two week manhunt.

Leichen der vermissten israelischen Jugendlichen gefunden
Image: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

In the hours following the discovery of the missing teens, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a harsh response to those believed to have been behind the deadly abduction.

"They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals," he said. "Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay."

Israel believes two alleged Hamas members, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aysha, are responsible for the murders, having abducted the three and shot them immediately afterwards.

On June 12, three seminary students - Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frankel, 16 - disappeared in the West Bank. The incident prompted Israeli security forces to launch a huge manhunt, going door to door and arresting dozens of suspects for questioning.

The bodies of the missing students were found on Monday, according to Israeli media reports.

Security officials said the teenagers' bodies were found near the village of Halhul, close to the location where they had last been seen.

Air strikes on Gaza Strip continue

Israel launched airstrikes against the Gaza Strip overnight, according to the Palestinian interior ministry, which reported over 30 hits on deserted militant training sites across the territory.

The ministry said the targets included bases of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

According to the Israeli military, the airstrikes were a response to a barrage of 18 rockets fired into Israeli territory.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to expand military operations in response to increased attacks from Gaza.

Israel's military said it had targeted only "terror activity" sites, including concealed rocket launchers, weapons manufacturing sites and alleged training grounds for militants.

Netanyahu told his colleagues on Sunday that the prevention of rocket attacks out of Gaza was now an issue for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

"I would like to reiterate that from the moment the Palestinian unity government was established with the Hamas terrorist organization, the Palestinian Authority became responsible for preventing firing at our territory from the Gaza Strip," the prime minister said.

kms/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)