The names and pictures of the three Israeli boys feared kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists outside Hebron Thursday night, June 12, were released Saturday in an unusual step while the massive search for them was in full momentum. They are Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon; Gil-Ad Sha'ar, 16, from Talmon; and Eyal Yifrach, 19, from Elad. Security officials declined to explain why their names were released at tis time. debkafile's military sources attribute the step to possible progress in the massive IDF-Shin-Bet search and investigation of the affair. Palestinian sources earlier ran the boys' images online.
Defense Minster Moshe Ya'alon said Saturday in a statement to the media: "We are in the middle of an intelligence and operational search effort, deploying substantial strength on the West Bank with the accent on the Hebron sector. Detentions are taking place. Our working premise," the defense minister stressed, "is that the missing boys are alive and, until we know otherwise, we will spare no effort to rescue them."
During 2013, Israel foiled 30 attempted kidnappings by Palestinian terrorists and 14 since the beginning of this year. "This one," he said," must have slipped under our radar."
Unlike a previous communique signed by a purported Salafi group, Israeli security sources are treating seriously a notice appearing Saturday noon in the name of the "Battalions of the Free Men of Hebron," claiming responsibility for abducting the three Israeli teens, two of them Yeshiva students:
"In our belief in the revered Palestinian people and in performance of our duty to the heroes held in the prisons of the cruel entity, we declare that we have carried out an extremely precise operation and taken three Zionists captive." The communique adds: "Whatever Israelis may do, they will never reach our captives."
This last sentence has caused the most anxiety in Israeli security circles.