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Mourners Flood Central Israel for Teens' Burial Service

By VOA News, Reuters, Israel Hayom & AFP

Tens of thousands of mourners joined in central Israel for a funeral service for three teenagers found dead in the West Bank nearly three weeks after they disappeared. The three were buried Tuesday in the Israeli town of Modi'in. Israeli leaders have accused the Hamas terror group of abducting and killing the three, one age 19 and the other two 16.

The deaths have prompted an outpouring of national grief and angry calls for revenge. Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres spoke at the funeral and vowed to punish Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops have raided the homes of two men suspected of abducting the three Israeli teenagers. Television footage showed troops setting off explosions at the home of Amer Abu Aisheh early Tuesday in Hebron. Witnesses reported a similar operation Tuesday at the home of Marwan Qawasmeh. Israel said the two men were members of the terror group Hamas, which has denied any involvement in the teenagers' disappearance.

The abduction and murders are putting pressure on Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a month after he angered Israel by forming a unity government with Hamas. Israel, the United States, the European Union and even Egypt consider Hamas a terrorist organization. "President Abbas must now, immediately, annul his pact with Hamas," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev. "If the Palestinian leadership says that it's opposed to terrorism, they cannot be in a political alliance with the murderers of children."

Netanyahu had promised Hamas would pay after the discovery of the three Jewish seminary students' bodies under a pile of rocks near the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday. The three teens - Gilad Shaer, 16, from Talmon settlement near the West Bank city of Ramallah; Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, from Elad, both towns in central Israel – disappeared while hitchhiking June 12. The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied Israel's allegations about its role in the disappearance of the students.

Abbas has said Israel must provide proof that Hamas is to blame, adding, however, that whoever is responsible must be condemned. Palestinian legislator Abdallah Abdallah said, "The loss of lives, whether Israeli or Palestinian, we regret that and we feel sorry for that." But Hamas has warned that Israel would "open the gates of hell" if it carried out any reprisal operations against the Islamist movement, whose power base is in Gaza, the French news agency AFP reported.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against going too far. "The response of the resistance has been limited, and Netanyahu must not test Hamas's patience," said Abu Zuhri, whose group's arsenal includes rockets that can reach Tel Aviv.

"Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the youths and we know how to settle accounts with them," Yaalon said. "We will continue to hunt the killers of the youngsters, we will not rest nor will we be silent until we lay our hands on them."

In the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said troops opened fire at a man, identified by Palestinian officials as Yousouf Al-Zagha, 19, who threw a grenade at soldiers who were attempting to arrest a militant in the Jenin refugee camp. A Palestinian who witnessed the incident said Zagha was an innocent passerby. The U.N. human rights office urged all Israelis and Palestinians to exercise "maximum restraint."

The kidnapping appalled Israelis who rallied behind the youngsters' families in a display of national unity. "They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts. ... Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay," Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday.

Before a joint burial in the Israeli city of Modi'in, funeral services were held outside the homes the three teens. The three were laid to rest side-by-side at the Modi'in cemetery. "There hasn't been a show of unity like this in Israel for years," Frenkel's father, Avraham, said at the service, as he stood facing the body of his son, which was draped with an Israeli flag.

Speaking at Shaar's funeral in Talmon, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said they were not burying a soldier but "the child of each and every one of us. We need each other on this day," Lapid added.

The teens, who attended a religious school in a Jewish settlement, had apparently been shot soon after being taken, officials said. Two of the youths lived in Israel.

The men Israel has accused of carrying out the abductions are still at large. They were identified as Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe. Israeli media said the break in the case came after their relatives were interrogated.

Troops set off explosions in the family homes of the alleged abductors late on Monday, blowing open a doorway in one, an army spokeswoman said. The other property was on fire after the blast. Neighbors said both houses were empty. "This kind of act is a sin, whether you're a Muslim or Jew. They've scared the kids so much," Um Sharif, the mother of one of the alleged kidnappers said about the damage caused to her home. She said she did not believe her son had been involved.

Hamas has been rocked by the arrest of dozens of its activists in an Israeli military sweep in the West Bank over the past three weeks during the search for the teenagers that Israel said was also aimed at weakening the militant movement. Up to six Palestinians died as a result of the Israeli operation, local residents said

After news of the teenagers' deaths, condolence messages and condemnation of the killings poured in from foreign leaders. "The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms, this senseless act of terror against innocent youths," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "I also urge all parties to 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.

Netanyahu seized on the abduction to demand Abbas annul a reconciliation deal he reached with Hamas, his long-time rival, in April that led to a unity Palestinian government on June 2.

Abbas condemned the abduction and pledged the cooperation of his security forces, drawing criticism from Hamas and undercutting his popularity among Palestinians angered by what they saw as his collusion with Israel.

Hamas, which has maintained security control of the Gaza Strip since the unity deal, is shunned by the West over its refusal to renounce violence. The group has called for Israel's destruction, although various officials have at times indicated a willingness to negotiate a long-term cease-fire.

Several hundred people waving Israeli flags and expressing grief and solidarity held a vigil in New York City on Monday after the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were discovered. The mourners gathered on a busy Manhattan street outside the Israeli Consulate and then, carrying placards bearing the names of the three slain teens, marched to the Isaiah Wall directly across from U.N. headquarters.

"Our hearts are broken," Rabbi Avi Weiss, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, told the crowd. "Our hearts are shattered. And all of the United Nations must speak out. The murder of a person is the murder of a person. But the murder of a child is the murder of the world."

Many in the crowd said they had come because they felt powerless and wanted to express support publicly for the families of the teens. "It's hard being so far away and feeling there is so little I can do," said Ilana Shrier, 25, a commercial real estate agent and Hebrew teacher.


Palestinians Brace for Israeli Response Over Murder of 3 Teens

By Israel Hayom

Israel bombed dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, striking at Hamas after finding the bodies of three missing teenagers -- Gil-ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel -- whose abduction and killing it blames on the Palestinian Islamist group.

Israel's security cabinet, which held an emergency session late on Monday and met again on Tuesday, was currently split on the scope of any further action in the coastal enclave and Judea and Samaria, officials said.

Tensions have soared since the bodies were found, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blaming Hamas and warning that the terror gang "will pay" while terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks, drawing Israelis retaliatory strikes and risking a wider conflict.

Meanwhile, Hamas officials in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have gone into hiding, bracing for whatever response Israel decides upon, Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq told Saudi news outlet Al-Arabiya.

The terrorist group's fears appear to be well founded. An Israeli senior defense official said "Hamas suffered heavy blows over the past two weeks. Many of the institutions they used to mastermind terror plots against Israel were shut down and their officials have been arrested. We will continue to pursue them and make them pay dearly."

The Palestinian Authority is also concerned about an Israeli response. The PA leadership in the Ramallah held an emergency meeting that lasted throughout the night. Arab media outlets reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a series of calls to senior officials in the U.S. and Europe and asked them to pressure Israel to refrain from taking aggressive and wide ranging punitive measures against the Palestinian populace in Hebron and the West Bank entire. Abbas reportedly also spoke with leaders in Arab states and senior officials in the Arab League.

Preparations are underway in the Gaza Strip for a possible IDF attack and Hamas' leadership has ordered its members to clear out headquarters and bases all throughout the Gaza Strip. Terrorist group Islamic Jihad stated that they will respond harshly to any Israeli acts of vengeance.

Al-Risheq stressed that Hamas' political leadership was not aware of the group's involvement in the kidnapping and murder of the teens. "Planning operations and carrying them out is made by the military wing leadership alone," he said.

Hamas warned Israel against a strong IDF response in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, saying that a fierce Israeli action could destabilize the region to the point that the understandings achieved in Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 would fall apart. In such a scenario, they claim, another round of fighting between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas is possible.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum responded to Netanyahu's statements accusing Hamas responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the teens. "The person responsible for the deteriorating security situation in the region is Netanyahu and his policies," he said. Barhoum refused to answer questions regarding the group's involvement in the kidnapping saying "the movement has decided to remain silent."

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas leadership in the West Bank did not issue an official statement regarding the discovery of the bodies. A senior official in Abbas' office told Israel Hayom that Abbas still stands behind his statements from last week, when he said that the Palestinian reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas would be put on hold and the unity government disbanded. "In effect, the reconciliation agreements have not been upheld for more than two weeks and he unity government barely operates."


ISIS Parades Captured Scud D Rockets with Israel in Range

By DEBKAfile & IsraelNationalNews.com

In the northern Syrian town of Raqqa, the Iraqi jihadis paraded Scud D surface rockets capable of reaching Israel, Iraq and Jordan. Photos of the parade appeared Tuesday in a number of web sites and social media Western weapons experts who saw them judged them "likely inoperable." However, according to DEBKAfile's military experts, the Al Qaeda-linked group has been able to seize large Syrian and Iraqi army arsenals in recent weeks and has no qualms about using them.

The video footage reveals that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has transferred some of the advanced weaponry it has captured in its blitz conquest of Iraq to Syria - weaponry which includes long range Scud missiles.

ISIS, which on Sunday declared itself an Islamic "caliphate" and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as "Caliph," has been busy looting Iraq after capturing large areas of the country from the American-armed and trained Iraqi army.

In the process it has seized a chemical weapons facility, Iraq's largest oil refinery, and become the "world's richest terrorist organization" by looting 500 billion Iraqi dinars ($425 million) from banks in Mosul.

Now, the buildup of weapons is apparently being transferred to Syria, as seen in a video revealed by MEMRI in which ISIS Islamists parade a Scud missile and captured tanks in their stronghold of Al-Raqqah, in the central north of the country near Turkey, which they declared the capital of their caliphate.

In addition to the Scud missile, tanks, APCs (armored personnel carriers) and Hummer army vehicles can be seen.

The showing of force and call for Muslims to join the "caliphate" has been responded to; the "Free Sunnis of Ba'albek Brigade," which in the past attacked the Shi'ite terror group Hizbullah in Lebanon's Beirut, pledged allegiance to the caliphate.

ISIS' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a 19-minute audiotape online on Tuesday, saying "Muslims, rush to your state. Yes, it is your state," reports the Daily Mail. The ISIS leader called for jihadists to step up the fighting during the Muslim holiday month of Ramadan, which began on Saturday. "In this virtuous month or in any other month, there is no deed better than jihad in the path of Allah, so take advantage of this opportunity and walk the path of you righteous predecessors. So to arms, to arms, soldiers of the Islamic, fight, fight," said al-Baghdadi.

The Scud missiles raise the danger posed against Israel, given that the long-range missiles have been fired at Israel in the past from Iraq during the Gulf war. One ISIS member calling himself Ansar Udeen wrote on Twitter "Dawla Islamiyya (The Islamic State) has SCUD missile in #Raqqa. [God willing] its heading towards #Israel for a spectacular Eid ul fitr," noting the feast to break the Ramadan fast.




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