JERUSALEM – Israel’s prime minister threatened Tuesday to take even tougher action against Hamas following an intense wave of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, as the country buried three Israeli teens it says were kidnapped and killed by the Islamic militant group.
In comments broadcast live on national television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his first goal is to find the killers of the three teens. “We will not rest until we reach the last of them,” he said.
But a broader mission is to act against Hamas in its Gaza stronghold, the Israeli leader said as he convened an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet to discuss a response to the deadly abductions.
“Hamas continues to support, even at this time, the kidnappings of our citizens and is directly responsible for firing rockets and mortars at our territory, including in recent hours,” Netanyahu said.
“If there is a need, we will broaden the campaign as much as needed.”
The three teenagers – Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship – disappeared on the night of June 12 as they were hitchhiking home from Jewish seminaries they attended in the West Bank.
An estimated 50,000 mourners attended Tuesday’s funeral in the central Israeli city of Modiin, arriving in hundreds of buses organized for the occasion.
Israel has identified two Hamas operatives as the chief suspects in the kidnappings. But it has offered little public evidence against the men, who remain on the loose.
Israeli media on Tuesday published a recording of the emergency call.
“They kidnapped me,” a voice, believed to be Shaar, can be heard saying. Another male voice is then heard, shouting, “head down!” Hotline workers initially dismissed the call as a hoax, delaying the rescue efforts for several hours, and several workers have been disciplined for the mishap.
The crackdown in the West Bank has been accompanied by a spike in violence in Gaza. Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes on Hamas targets overnight Tuesday in response to repeated rocket fire.
Later on the day, militants fired five more rockets, including two that landed in Israel, the army said. In all, 10 rockets were fired into Israel on Tuesday, it said. The barrage, which caused no damage or injuries, raised the likelihood of new Israeli reprisals.