Funeral held for slain Israeli settlers

Burials held for three young settlers who disappeared weeks ago as well as for Palestinian shot by Israeli forces.

Israel has held funerals for three young settlers found dead near Hebron in the Occupied West Bank more than two weeks after they went missing.

Thousands gathered for the burials of Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, in the West Bank city of Modi’in on Tuesday.

The settlers disappeared on June 12 while hitchhiking home from a religious school in Kfar Etzion, an illegal settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron, and were last heard in a brief emergency call to police.

Their bodies were found near the West Bank village of Halhoul on Monday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has blamed the Palestinian group Hamas for the killings, spoke of the “murderers who with endless cruelty and without the blink of an eye, violated the ancient order not to raise a hand against a boy”.

Netanyahu has already vowed the group would pay for the deaths. Speaking before before Israel’s security cabinet convened for a second time in two days, he said that Israel “must strike hard at Hamas people and infrastructure in the West Bank” and would weigh further attacks to prevent rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel.

Palestinian mourned

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians mourned the death on Tuesday of a 19-year-old Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli forces during a raid in Jenin Refugee Camp in the occupied territory.

The Israeli army said Yousouf Ibrahim threw a grenade at the forces as they carried out the overnight raid, but Palestinian witnesses have denied this.

“Me and Yousouf were walking, he was carrying a box filled with eggs. We were sitting here for a while, when we decided to go back home. Someone fired toward him,” a witness told Reuters.

The killing took place hours after the discovery of the bodies of three Israelis that also prompted a series of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said it launched 34 raids in the early hours of Tuesday, in response to 20 rockets fired into Israel from the Strip.

Their disappearance set off the largest military operation in the West Bank since the end of the second Intifada. More than 600 Palestinians were arrested in the 18-day search, thousands of homes raided and five people killed by Israeli gunfire.

Hamas blamed

AJ+ explains: Israeli Settlements

Subscribe to AJ+ for more

On Monday night Israel demolished the homes of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, two Hebron-area residents who the Israeli government has named as suspects.

The use of punitive demolitions revived a practice that was almost entirely discontinued in 2005.

The Israeli security cabinet also held an emergency meeting on Monday night, which ended with no major decisions on further actions, according to a government source. The cabinet will reconvene on Tuesday.

Some politicians have called for harsher steps against Hamas, including targeted assassinations. “I don’t know how many leaders of Hamas will remain alive after tonight,” said Tzachi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister.

The group dismissed the accusations in a statement, calling them propaganda.

“The (Israeli) occupation’s accusations against us deserve no comment, because the problem is with the occupation which continues its crimes and escalation,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera.

“The occupation shoulders the responsibility for any escalation.”

Tuesday’s events prompted the United Nations’ human rights office to urge Israelis and Palestinians to “exercise maximum restraint and to prevent the situation from worsening further”.