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JERUSALEM — The bodies of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped more than two weeks ago on their way home from religious school were found shot to death Monday, Israeli officials said.

"They were found in a city called Halhul north of Hebron" in the West Bank, said Jonny Daniels, an adviser to Israel's deputy defense minister, Danny Danon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting with his security Cabinet to discuss how Israel will respond, Daniels said.

"Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," Netanyahu said in a statement. He added that the teenagers "were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by wild beasts."

Early Tuesday, Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in Gaza, saying it struck 34 targets across the Hamas-controlled territory. The military said the airstrikes were a response to a barrage of 18 rockets fired into Israel since late Sunday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

"The IDF will continue to act in order to restore the peaceful living to the civilians of the state of Israel. The Hamas terror organization and its extensions are solely responsible for any terror activities emanating from the Gaza Strip," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.

There were no further details on the targets, but in recent weeks Israel has repeatedly targeted launch sites and weapons storage areas in similar attacks.

One Palestinian was killed during an arrest raid after the teens' bodies were discovered, the Israeli military announced. The man was shot dead in the West Bank town of Jenin as he tried to throw a grenade at Israeli troops.

Danon called on the international community "to end all aid to the Palestinian Authority and its Hamas-backed government." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "cannot continue to claim to want peace with Israel, while at the same time partnering with Hamas as they kidnap and brutally murder teenagers," he said.

Tensions have been high between Israel and Hamas since the June 12 kidnappings, which came 10 days after Abbas and his Fatah Party that rule the West Bank formed a unity government with Hamas, which controls Gaza. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and strongly opposes the union.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against any broad offensive. Gaza militants possess thousands of rockets, and would almost certainly unleash heavy barrages at Israel if Israel attacks.

"Netanyahu should know that threats don't scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him," he said.

In Washington, President Obama said, "As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing. The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth."

The news of the teens' deaths gripped the nation.

"It really is a shock," Daniels said. "You can hear people even in the bars and clubs are turning off the World Cup to turn on the news."

The students, Naftali Fraenkel, who has dual Israeli-American citizenship, and Gilad Shaar, both 16, along with Eyal Yifrach, 19, disappeared while hitchhiking home, prompting the Israeli military to carry out one of the biggest sweeps of the West Bank in a decade.

For many Israelis, the teens' abduction and murder felt like a personal blow.

"I have three teenagers at home," said Malkie Cohen, an Orthodox Jerusalemite. "How could I not feel affected?"

Cohen said she hoped the Israeli military will "once and for all weed out the terrorists. We gave back Gaza and Hamas moved in, and now they're sending rockets into our cities," she said, referring to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Watching the news on a TV in a Jerusalem café, Laine Katz said, "I'm the mother of a soldier who has been searching for them. But at the same time I believe this kidnapping didn't occur in a vacuum. I believe the occupation is wrong. That may sound cold, but that's how I feel."

Avi Menashe, whose face registered shock at the news broadcast, said the discovery of the bodies "will close a circle." He added: "I fear the the circle of violence will continue."

B'Tselem, a left-wing organization that opposes building Israeli settlements in the West Bank, renewed its call for the government to refrain from acts of vengeance for the teens' deaths. B'Tselem asked the security forces to avoid harming the innocent Palestinian population.

Israel's domestic security agency has already named two Palestinian suspects in the abductions — Marwan Kawasma and Amer Abu Aysha, who are described as operatives in the Islamist militant group Hamas.

"There is no mercy for the murderers of children. This is the time for action, not words," Naftali Bennett, the hawkish minister of finance and a supporter of building Israeli settlements, told IBA News.

Yuli Edelstein, speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, said, "It's time for Israel to wage an unrelenting war against terror in general and Hamas in particular. The Palestinian Authority should realize Hamas will bring them to destruction."

A committee investigating the teens disappearance said earlier Monday that it found a "severe failure of conduct" by operators of the Judea and Samaria police emergency hotline on the night of the kidnappings.

Several officers were immediately dismissed over what the investigating committee described as a "mishandling of the telephone call received at the center,"Haaretz reported.

According to the committee's report, a telephone call was made to the police at around 10:25 p.m. by one of the abducted teens who said, in a soft voice, "I have been kidnapped."

The report says those on duty tried to speak with the teen and called back a traced number no less than eight times but, in the end, a manager and shift supervisor decided not to look into the call any further.

Israeli security forces searching for the teens have raided more than a 1,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank and rounded up hundreds of Palestinians, including senior Hamas leaders, and prisoners recently released to advance U.S.-brokered peace talks that later failed. Five Palestinians have died in clashes over the rescue operation.

Since June 27, militants have fired at least 30 rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel, including four intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, according to AFP. The Israeli air force has struck back killing three Palestinians.

At least 15 rockets were fired at Israel on Sunday night after Israel launched airstrikes against suspected Hamas rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and Sunday, killing a member of the Hamas military wing, according to the militant group. Rockets fired from the Palestinian territory into Israel damaged a home and set a fire Saturday in a plastics factory in the Israeli town of Sderot, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Dorell reported from Washington. Contributing: David Jackson in Washington; the Associated Press





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