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Avi and Rachel Fraenkel attend the funeral of their son, Naftali, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Nof Ayalon, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The Israeli military found the bodies of three missing teenagers just over two weeks after they were abducted in the West Bank — a grim discovery that ended a frantic search that led to Israel's largest ground operation in the Palestinian territory in nearly a decade and drew Israeli threats of retaliation. (Tomer Appelbaum/AP)
Avi and Rachel Fraenkel attend the funeral of their son, Naftali, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Nof Ayalon, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. The Israeli military found the bodies of three missing teenagers just over two weeks after they were abducted in the West Bank — a grim discovery that ended a frantic search that led to Israel's largest ground operation in the Palestinian territory in nearly a decade and drew Israeli threats of retaliation. (Tomer Appelbaum/AP)

Thousands mourn at funeral service for slain Israeli teenagers Add to ...

Tens of thousands of mourners converged Tuesday in central Israel for a funeral service for three teenagers found dead in the West Bank after a two-week search and crackdown on the Hamas militant group, which Israeli leaders have accused of abducting and killing the young men.

The deaths of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, have prompted angry calls for revenge. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security Cabinet for an emergency meeting to discuss a response to the killings, hours after airstrikes targeted dozens of suspected Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip.

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Ahead of the late-night meeting, Mr. Netanyahu vowed a tough response against Hamas, saying Israel “will not rest” until it catches the killers. He also warned of stepped up military activity in Hamas-controlled Gaza if rocket fire out of the territory continues.

“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,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement aired on national TV. “If there is a need, we will broaden the campaign as much as needed.”

Israeli troops also shot dead a Palestinian man in the West Bank, where the teens disappeared on June 12. Israel has accused the Hamas militant group of carrying out the abduction, and Netanyahu has warned “Hamas will pay.”

The three young men were buried side by side in the central Israeli town of Modiin. Mourners arrived in large convoys of buses arranged for the ceremony. Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were among the speakers to eulogize the youths, whose bodies were wrapped in blue-and-white Israeli flags and laid on stretchers. Hundreds of people also attended separate memorial services in the hometowns of the three teens.

Hamas has praised the kidnappings but not confirmed or denied Israeli allegations that it was involved.

Their disappearances prompted the army to launch its largest ground operation in the West Bank in nearly a decade, dispatching thousands of troops to search for them and arresting nearly 400 Hamas operatives. The search came to an end on Monday when the bodies were found buried under a pile of rocks in a field north of Hebron.

The crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank has been accompanied by a spike in rocket fire out of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. At sundown, Gaza militants fired five more rockets toward Israel, raising the total number of rockets launched Tuesday to 10, the army said. The barrage, which caused no damage or injuries, raised the likelihood of new Israeli reprisals.

Overnight Tuesday, the Israeli air force carried out airstrikes on 34 targets, including a Hamas compound, the military said. Palestinian officials said four people were wounded.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops shot and killed a 20-year-old Palestinian man during a raid in the northern town of Jenin. Israel said the man had thrown a grenade at the troops. But his family said he had been carrying eggs home for a predawn meal before the daylight fast for Ramadan.

The Israeli daily Haaretz said that Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon had proposed building a new settlement in the West Bank in memory of the teens. Another Cabinet minister, Naftali Bennett, proposed a large-scale military operation in Gaza and to begin using the death penalty against Palestinian militants.

But in Jerusalem, several hundred right-wing Israeli youths marched through a main road, screaming for revenge.

 

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