NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A candlelight vigil was held in Brooklyn Tuesday night, in prayer for the safe the safe return of three teens kidnapped in the West Bank last week.
As 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and other elected officials were present for the vigil in front of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights.
Gilad Shaar, 16; Naftali Frankel, 16; and Eyal Yifrach, 19, are Jewish seminary students and were kidnapped Thursday while hitchhiking at a West Bank bus stop near the Palestinian city of Hebron. Frankel is an American citizen whose family is originally from Brooklyn, and the other two boys also have ties to the borough, Rincon reported.
The three were on their way home — two to towns in Israel, and the third to a West Bank settlement.
The officials and local religious leaders at the vigil declared a message of unity.
“We don’t want this to happen to any young person in our community – here in Crown Heights, or anywhere around the world,” said City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-35th.)
City Public Advocate Letitia James had a strong message about the abductions.
“We must stand united and send a message that children – children – are off limits, and children should never, ever, ever be political pawns,” she said.
Some local students were also in attendance.
“I know that Eyal and Giald and Naftali, wherever they are, they feel us and they appreciate it,” said Crown Heights student Tzippy Zeines.
The Jewish Children’s Museum where the vigil was held is dedicated to Ari Halberstam, who was 16 when he was gunned down in a hail of bullets near the Brooklyn Bridge on March 1, 1994. A gunman, Lebanese-born Rashid Baz, opened fire on a van carrying more than a dozen Orthodox Jewish students.
Halberstam’s mother, Devorah Halberstam, said at the vigil that the boys kidnapped in the West Bank need to come home alive and well.
“I am here as a mother to call out to those terrorists that are holding our children – pleading with them – look into the eyes of these kids and know that they can be your own,” she said.
Israeli officials are investigating claims by an extremist group known as Dawiat al-Islam, which claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Monday. The organization is linked to ISIS, the Sunni militant organization behind the current war in Iraq.
“Israel will act against the kidnappers, and their terrorist sponsors and comrades,” said Iraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will do whatever needs to be done to protect our people.”
Large numbers of Israeli troops have been involved in a massive search for the boys, going house to house in some areas.
Netanyahu has blamed the kidnappings on the decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to form a government with Hamas. Netanyahu said he will hold Abbas responsible for the disappearance, Kramer reported.
“You remember that Israel warned the international community about the dangers of endorsing the Fatah-Hamas unity pact,” Netanyahu said Monday.
It’s not clear how far Netanyahu will go in trying to dismantle the Hamas organization, considering the risk this might further destabilize the region. Despite Netanyahu’s verbal attacks against Abbas, he does not want to see a collapse of the pragmatic Palestinian leader’s self-rule government in the West Bank.
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