[Friday, June 13, 2014] Israeli security officials stated that three teenage settlers, including one who reportedly holds a US citizenship, who have been missing since Thursday at night, are feared to have been kidnapped.The army and police initiated massive search campaign, while Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held the Palestinian Authority responsible.
Israeli daily, Haaretz, said two of the three missing Israelis are 16 years old, while the third is 19, and that one of them is said to be holding U.S. citizenship.
The missing Israelis are yeshiva students who went missing late on Thursday at night somewhere between Gush Etzion settlement bloc and the Alon Shvut settlement.
The army set up a command post in Kiryat Arbaâ settlement, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and installed various roadblocks in the area.
Haaretz said Israeli Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered combat units to remain on high alert, and said the army is doing everything it can to find out what happened to the missing Israelis.
In addition, Israeli Army Spokesperson Motti Almoz told the media and the public to stay away from speculations, and what he called rumors on social media, regarding the fate of the missing Israelis.
The army and security forces still do not know exactly what happened, and reports of the missing Israelis been kidnapped have not been confirmed.
Haaretz said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting at an army base in Tel Aviv, and that Defense Minister Moshe Yaâalon also attended the meeting along with Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovich, Army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen.
Netanyahu is holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for the missing Israelis, but also instructed the government not to talk to the media on the issue.
Israel also is briefing U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, on investigation progress due to the fact that one of the missing settlers holds U.S. citizenship.
Furthermore, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni held an informal meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in London, asking him to talk to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to help in âsecuring the release of the missing Israelisâ.
Haaretz said that Netanyahu also told Kerry that he holds President Abbas responsible for the missing settlers, and their safe return.
Netanyahu said that this kidnapping is a direct outcome of the unity agreement between Fateh and Hamas, and the inclusion of Hamas in the interim unity government.
According to the Israeli Shin Bet security service, there have been an increasing number of kidnapping attempts in recent weeks in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet believes that Palestinian detainees, held by Israel, have contacted fighters in the West Bank, eleven times, in an attempt have them kidnap Israelis to conduct prisoner-swap deals.
The Arabs48 news website has reported that Israeli paratroopers landed on Friday evening in the Beit Kahel village, near Hebron, while dozens of soldiers and military vehicles were deployed around Hebron city, and its nearby communities.
It said that, according to social media activists, the three Israelis entered a car, believed to be driven by the kidnappers, and that the car itself was reportedly stolen from a settlement in the area.
The car was located empty an in an area where, several years ago, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and killed.
Soldiers also kidnapped two young Palestinian men near Doura town, south of Hebron.
Although no connection has been made, the army alleged locating a torched car in the area. Clashes were also reported between the soldiers and local youth.
Soldiers also installed various roadblocks in the area, especially on the Halhoul Bridge, the entrances of Beit Kahel and Ithna town, near Hebron.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Adnan Damiry, spokesperson of the Palestinian Security Forces, denounced Israeli accusations, especially those made by Netanyahu, holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for the missing Israelis.
Damiry said that Netanyahu and his government are making accusations while their government has violated every agreement signed with the Palestinians, and are acting on destroying any chances for peace in the region.
He added that the Palestinian Authority has no information about the missing Israelis, and that the area where Israel claims they went missing, is under complete Israeli military and security control.