Israel has bombed dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip and killed a Palestinian during raids in the West Bank after the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were found near the city of Hebron.
Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel disappeared on 12 June while hitch-hiking home after classes at their religious studies institute near an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
The bodies of the victims were discovered under a pile of rocks near the town of Halhul in the West Bank after more than a fortnight of searching.
Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed retaliation against Hamas, which he blames for the deaths, saying:
“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals”
Five Palestinians were killed during fights with the Israeli forces investigating the boys’ disappearance, and more than 400 Palestinians were arrested during the two-week operation.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has said that the overnight bombing of 34 sites in Gaza were “in response to the 18 rockets fired at Israel since Sunday night” and not in retaliation for the deaths of the three teenagers. However, some have suggested that the response was in preparation of a major offensive to be launched in the coming days.
Israeli Deputy Defence Minister, Dan Danon, told the BBC that Hamas “must pay a price” as Israeli forces continue to search for Marwan Kawasme and Omar Abu Aysha, who they accuse of being the “Hamas terrorists” behind the deaths.
Hamas denies being behind the attacks.
Netanyahu has blamed the incident on the recent partnership forged between Hamas and Fatah, which signed a reconciliation agreement and formed a Palestinian unity government last month after years of division.
International leaders have condemned the deaths, but warned both sides to avoid further destabilising the situation.
US President Barack Obama said:
“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms, this senseless act of terror against innocent youths. I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilise the situation.”