Israel vows “fierce” punishment for the killers.
The bodies of three Israeli teenagers who went missing 18 days ago have been found, Israeli authorities said Monday.
An Israeli military spokesman said their bodies were found in a pit near the town of Halhul, north of Hebron.
The teenagers were last seen at a junction in the West Bank whilst making their way home.
Authorities said the families of the three teenagers- Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both aged 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach- have been notified.
After their kidnapping, Israel launched a massive Operation Brother’s Keeper to search for the boys, and accused Hamas of being behind their disappearance, a claim the Palestinian militant group has denied.
Israel held an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday evening to discuss the killings.
President Shimon Peres said the “whole nation is in deep grief”, and vowed that amid the sorrow, Israel remain “determined to fiercely punish” those responsible for the deaths.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service said the two main suspects in the case were two men named Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh and that they were Hamas agents.
A large contingent of Israeli security forces were in the West Bank Monday evening between the Palestinian town of Halhul and the West Bank settlement Karmei Tzur, north of Hebron, where a wide search after the three missing kidnapped teens took place earlier on Monday, Israel based Hareetz newspaper reported.
By late Monday, Israeli military set up blockades and closed down whole areas around Halhul.
Police forensic teams were in the area and searches were continuing in an effort to capture “all those involved in this attack”, a statement said.