Newsletter : 14fx0701.txt
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Bodies of Kidnapped Israeli Teens Found Near Hebron
By Israel Faxx News Services
Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, both aged 16, were found dead of
bullet wounds Monday, June 30, in the Palestinian village of Kachil near Halhoul north of
Hebron on the West Bank. They appeared to have been thrown into a field by their abductors
after a hasty effort to conceal them.
Their parents were informed earlier of the discovery. The families have gone into deep
mourning. The all-out search has switched urgently from Operation Brother's Keeper to
discover the boys to the hunt for their kidnappers.
Searches for the boys had been ongoing for weeks, and the developments opened up a
flood of new details regarding the initial abduction. Buzzfeed reported that Israeli
officials had known almost immediately that the kidnapping had involved a likely
BuzzFeed spoke to an Israeli official involved in the case, who confirmed that during
the police call a gunshot can clearly be heard. The car, he added, had clear evidence of
foul play. Over the last week. Israeli soldiers could be seen digging through rocks and
dredging wells in Hebron in the search for the teens. "We have been operating, for some
time now, with evidence that these boys were killed," he said. "It is with a heavy heart
that we realized we were looking for bodies."
Washington Institute Senior Fellow Matt Levitt contextualized the news against the
backdrop of Palestinian boasts which had become something of a mainstay on social
media that the Israeli victims would be traded for Palestinian prisoners. The
request had never been made:
The developments were also quickly read against the backdrop of ongoing controversy
regarding the Obama administration's decision made a few weeks prior to the
kidnapping to extend support to a Palestinian unity government jointly agreed upon
by Hamas and its traditional rivals in the Fatah faction. The Washington Free Beacon
conveyed brutal assessments from DC analysts:
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S Treasury Department,
told the Washington Free Beacon. "In recognizing the unity government, the U.S. helped
establish in Gaza the Hizbullah model, which is a unified weak central government that
allows a terrorist organization to operate with impunity inside," Schanzer said. "That's
exactly what we're seeing right now. In the same way the Lebanese can't stop Hizbullah,
the Palestinians can't stop Hamas."
Top Fatah officials had previous said that any Hamas involvement in the kidnapping
would "mark the crossing of a red line," and would force them to abrogate the unity
agreement. The developments come a day after Hamas fighters launched more than a dozen
rockets at Israeli communities, the first time the group has officially taken credit for
such launches since November 2012.
The Israeli cabinet was summoned to an emergency session Monday night to determine how
to respond to the tragic deaths. The suspected abductors are two Hamas activists, missing
from their homes at the same time as the boys' disappearance. Last Thursday, June 26, the
Shin bet security service named them as Marwan Qwasmeh and Amar Abu Aisha from Hebron.
Both have done time in Israeli and Palestinian jails for terrorist actions.
The three Israeli teenagers disappeared thumbing a lift home outside Gush Etzion in the
Hebron district on June 10. They were believed kidnapped after two days. Investigators
deduced that they had been murdered by their kidnappers after hearing the tape of a
cellphone call one of the boys put into the emergency 101 emergency desk in Kiryat Arba..
He was heard whispering "I was kidnapped," followed by an exchange of words in Arabic and
gunshots. The cell phone was then abruptly switched off. The investigation could not
establish whether all the boys were shot or one or more had survived.
The police officer who received the call treated it as just another prank and passed it
on after several precious hours were lost. This week, the commissioner sacked a number of
police officers serving in the Hebron District. A burnt car found in another part of the
district, the village of Dura, proved to have been the kidnap car. Cartridges of the
bullets in the vehicle were the only tangible clues left by the kidnappers to the fate of
The teenagers' mothers went to Geneva last week to address the UN Human Rights Council
and direct a plea to the international community to help find their sons. Sunday night,
tens of thousands of well wishers rallied in Rabin Square at the center of Tel Aviv in
support of the boys' families.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued this statement from the emergency cabinet
meeting he called Monday night: "It is with the deepest sorrow that we announce the
discovery of three bodies which show every sign of belonging to the three boys, Eyal,
Gil-Ad and Naftali. They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals. On behalf
of the people of Israel, I wish to inform the bereaved families, mothers, fathers,
grandparents, sisters and brothers, that our heart bleeds for them. An entire nation
"Even Satan could not avenge the murder of a child and these young boys were on their
way home to their parents, who will never see them again. Hamas is responsible, and Hamas
will pay," the prime minister said in conclusion.
The cabinet meeting was called to determine how Hamas will pay. Every leader, including
the prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff vowed during the nerve-wracking
search for the boys that if they were harmed, the punishment meted out by Israel would be
Notably, Obama addressed the bereaved families of the Israeli boys. "On behalf of the
American people I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal
Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Frenkel who held Israeli and American
citizenship. As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of
these teenage boys are experiencing."
His comments included condemnation of "this senseless act of terror against innocent
youth." He continued on to voice solidarity with Israel. "As the Israeli people deal with
this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States." The White
House statement also urged restraint, saying all parties should refrain from steps that
could further destabilize the situation.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis called the killings "abominable" and said they are a grave
obstacle to peace. The Vatican spokesman condemned the killings as a "hideous and
unacceptable crime" while noting that it threatened the hope of peace. He stated that Pope
Francis who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in April, was united with the
families of the victims who were suffering "unspeakable pain".
The Hamas terrorist group has warned it will "open the gates of hell" if Israel sought
to escalate its operation against the Islamist group in response to the murder of the
three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found this afternoon. "If the occupiers carry
out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves," Hamas
spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
Insights from the U.S. Mission in Iraq
Commentary By Rabbi Carlos Huerta, (Chaplain, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airmobile Div. Jan 11,
Climbing over the rotting garbage, I realized I was the first Jew to enter this holy
place in more than 50 years. I am writing to you from Nineveh, the city of the prophet
Jonah. Its present name is Mosul.
I have had the privilege of seeing its ancient walls, of touching its stones, of going
to the grave Islamic tradition says is the prophet Jonah's. There is a mosque at the site;
but hundreds of years ago, the Iraqis we work with tell me, it was a synagogue. They tell
me the reason the site is so sacred is because of the sacredness in which the Jews held
it. Currently, there are no signs of this ancient synagogue.
I am the rabbi of the 101st Airborne Division, the division Steven Spielberg
immortalized in his epic, "Band of Brothers." We, the soldiers of the 101st Airborne,
fought our way up from the south, from Kuwait. The battle took us past Ur, the city where
Abraham was born. We maintained contact with the enemy, passed the site of the great
Talmudic academies of Sura and Pumpaditya, to the city of Babylon, where the prophet
Daniel was taken.
There, we engaged the Nebuchadnezzar Iraqi Armored Division and beat them. We
battle to Baghdad, where so many Jews lived and were massacred in the summer of 1948. It
was the city of so many of our sages, including the Ben Ish Chai. Now we are in Mosul. I
ask about the Jews who lived here, and very few remember them. Many say Jews never lived
here; but my heart tells me different.
The old ones tell me there was a Jewish quarter, as well as a synagogue, study halls
and a cemetery.
One day, while searching the streets of the ancient city, I came across a building missing
half of its
roof. The site was a garbage dump, and the building's interior was three-quarters full of
garbage, feces and sewage. I had to crouch down low to get inside, as the doorway was
As I entered, light came through the half-open roof, and I could just make out writing
engraved on the walls. It was Hebrew. It was then that I knew I had stumbled into the
ancient synagogue of the city of Mosul-Nineveh. My heart broke, as I climbed over the
garbage piles that filled the room where, for hundreds of years, the prayers of Jews had
reached the heavens. This is when I realized I was probably the first Jew to enter this
holy place in more than a half century.
More than 3½ meters of garbage filled the main sanctuary and what appeared to be
section. I barely could make it out because of the filth, but there was Hebrew writing on
Many Iraqis congregated around me, wanting to know what I was doing. My translator said
American army was interested in old archaeological sites of all kinds. I asked them if
they knew what this place was, and they all said in an instant: It was the house where the
They told me that the houses in the streets surrounding the synagogue had been filled
with Jews. They took me to the children's yeshiva, a marbled edifice that no longer had a
roof, only walls and half-rooms. There was a vagrant family living there, and when I asked
them what this place was, they said it was a Jewish school for children.
As I walked through the quarter, I was shown the grave of the prophet Daniel, once
located near a
synagogue. I saw that many of the doorposts had an engraving of the lion of Judah on the
top. I felt the presence of our people, of their daily lives as merchants, teachers,
rabbis, doctors and tailors. I felt their rush to get ready for Shabbat, felt their
presence as they walked to the synagogue on Yom Kippur.
I could almost hear singing in the courtyards, in the sukkot, as they invited in the
ushpizin. I could hear the Pessach songs echoing through the narrow streets late into the
And the children, I could see their shadows as they raced down the alleys and around
the corners, playing. I heard their voices learning the aleph beth in the yeshivot as they
prepared for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. But I also heard the babies crying, and I could
see the young daughters of Zion clinging to their mother's skirts, asking why the bad
people were killing them and making them leave their homes of thousands of years.
Tears came to my eyes, but I had to hold them back, lest I put myself and the soldier
with me in a
dangerous situation. I had to pretend that I was only mildly interested in what they were
showing me.How does one absorb this kind of experience? How do I convey the feeling of
hearing all those voices reaching out in prayer at the synagogue as I stood on top of all
that garbage? How do I recover our history; how do I bring honor to a holy place that has
been so desecrated?
I have no answers. I only have great sadness, pain and loneliness. Since then, I have
gone back to the Jewish quarter of old Mosul with members of my congregation, Jewish
soldiers of the 101st: Infantrymen, artillerymen, medics, pilots, lawyers, doctors, all
proud to be Jewish and serving their country. Together, we have found five more
synagogues, more yeshivot and many Jewish homes. They have all come away profoundly
affected by what they saw. They are saddened, but yet proud to be connected to such an
ancient and rich tradition in this historic city of Nineveh.
I searched the ancient city near cemeteries in hope of finding the Jewish cemetery. I
found a Christian cemetery and a British war cemetery situated next to each other. The
British war cemetery now is used as a soccer field. The cemetery was marked as a war
memorial cemetery, and the dates were for World War I and World War II. There was a marker
in the cemetery written in English and Sanskrit, dedicated to the Hindu and Sikh soldiers
of Her Majesty's army who died while serving. Another one, written in English and Arabic,
was dedicated to the Muhammadan soldiers in Her Majesty's army who died while serving, and
a third marker had nothing on it. These markers were more than seven meters high.
The third marker could have had a dedication, but if so, it had been destroyed or
removed. Scattered all through the cemetery were fragments of tombstones, some with a few
words of English, some with a cross on them. Outside these three markers, there were no
standing tombstones anywhere, only broken fragments scattered in corners. The cemetery was
surrounded by a 1.5-meter wall and an entrance gate.
About half a meter inside the cemetery, barely showing through the surface, was a
assistant, Specialist William Rodriguez, discovered. By working with me over these last
few months, he has learned to recognize Hebrew letters. As we dug it out we noticed it had
both Hebrew and English on it. I was so excited to see it, yet so sad. There are many
possible explanations, but the one I think most plausible is that it was the grave marker
of a British soldier, a young man by the name of Zev. The British army had contacted the
local Jewish community to have a stone engraver put Hebrew on the stone, along with the
English. It was their way of honoring and respecting their fallen comrade.
If this explanation is true, then this cemetery contains those of the Hindu, Sikh,
Islamic, Christian, and Jewish faiths, all soldiers who died in the service of their
country. The obvious question: Is death the only way these great faiths can coexist in
peace? We would hope not. I have not yet discovered the ancient Jewish cemetery of the
Jews of Mosul-Nineveh. My instincts tell me it is nearby, but in the last 60 years, it
probably has been desecrated and obliterated. One native I talked to told me that a major
highway had been built through it. I will continue to search as my military mission allows
me. I have taken Zev's marker and reburied it in the cemetery. I have said Kaddish for him
and for all the other Jewish souls that may be buried here.
There is a great history to be written here, a great opportunity to recover the lost
narrative of our people, the Sephardim of Iraq. My prayer and hope are that when the gates
finally open for scholars, the remnants of our people still will be here for historians to
recover. If this chapter of history is erased, it never will be recovered again. I pray
that those with more resources, more connections and more wisdom than I will be able to
add to these pages of our great history. I am only thankful that God has given me a small
part in it. May the memories of our brothers and sisters - hakahal hakadosh d'Nineveh
the holy community of Nineveh never be forgotten.
(Rabbi Huerta is now the Jewish chaplain at West Point)
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