As Israel Buries Teens And World Mourns, Airstrikes Target Hamas
JERUSALEM (CBSNewYork/AP) – Investigators on Tuesday released a call made to police by one of the three kidnapped and slain Israeli teenagers – during their abduction.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the recording was released as the Israeli Air Force targeted dozens of locations in the Gaza Strip in a surge of violence that followed the discovery of the teens’ bodies, and as tens of thousands attended a funeral for the boys.
Grief etched the parents’ faces at the funeral of the three teens, who were kidnapped and later brutally murdered by Hamas militants.
The Jewish prayer for the dead was then recited by the fathers of the teens – Eyal Yifrah, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Fraenkel, 16 – the lattermost of whom had dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship with a family in Brooklyn.
Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral, including Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein sat right behind the parents.
“When the three fathers got up together to say the mourner’s prayer, it was so moving; so difficult to watch,” Hoenlein said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were among those eulogizing the boys at the joint service.
Earlier, hundreds of people also participated in separate memorial services in the hometowns of the three teens, ahead of the joint funeral.
“Recently, the people of Israel went through a great trauma,” said Shirel Shaar, Gilad’s younger sister. “We are living as if we are in a movie, whose ending is as bad as can be,” she said. “I don’t have a brother anymore.”
“We are burying a child today, a child who could have been the child of anyone of us,” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid. “Therefore he is indeed the child of each and every one of us.”
Laid on stretchers and wrapped in blue and white Israeli flags, the bodies were to be laid to rest together in the central Israeli town of Modiin.
“You cannot imagine the size of the crowds, the people from every walk of life gathering there to pay tribute,” Hoenlein added earlier. “This is a national trauma. I’ve never seen people come together in such a dramatic way.”
The boys were buried side by side, in a heart-rending sight to experience for all the mourners.
“The mother was crying and immobile, and one of them, when the gurneys were taken away, she leaned over it – it was heartbreaking,” Hoenlein said. “She didn’t want to separate from her son.”
Grief was also on the faces of nearly 2,000 people who filled the Jewish Center on the Upper West Side, inside and out, for a memorial service.
“I’d like each of you to take a look into the eyes of each of these boys, and to know that behind every face there is an entire personality; is an entire inner world,” said Fraenkel’s cousin, Manny Halberstam. “And those internal worlds are no longer with us.”
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, those who came to the Manhattan vigil remained horrified about the murders Tuesday night.
“This kind of atrocity and this kind of murder shouldn’t be accepted,” said Vanessa Miller.
“Three young boys – 16 years old, one was Israeli-American — were being kidnapped and killed for no reason, because of hatred towards Jews and Israelis,” said Barbara Kitai of the Upper West Side.
The three were abducted while hitchhiking home from the Jewish seminaries where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron.
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 a sad end on Monday afternoon when the bodies were found buried under a pile of rocks in a field north of Hebron.
Israeli authorities have released few details on the abduction or the search for the teens. On Tuesday, Israeli media published a recording of an emergency call made to police by one of the teens shortly after the abduction.
“They kidnapped me,” a voice, believed to be Shaar, can be heard saying. Another male voice is then heard, shouting, “head down.”
The operator keeps saying “hello,” and at one point, there are loud noises that might be gunshots.
Hotline workers initially dismissed the call as a hoax, delaying the rescue efforts for several hours. Numerous workers have been disciplined for the mishap.
Tensions have soared since the bodies were found, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu blaming Hamas and warning it “will pay,” while militants in Hamas-controlled Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks, drawing Israeli retaliatory airstrikes and risking a wider conflict.
Overnight Tuesday, Palestinian militants fired eight rockets into Israel, the army said. 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 the Ramadan holiday.
Later in Jerusalem on Tuesday, orthodox Jewish protesters had only one thought – retribution. They charged that the government has not done enough to avenge the teens’ deaths.
“I want the government to get together, get the army together, and crush Hamas now,” said one protester named Aron.
Israel hasn’t yet decided how it will respond to the deaths. Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet held a stormy, three-hour meeting late Monday, but was unable to agree on a response.
The Security Cabinet met again on Tuesday after the funerals. One suggestion for avenging the deaths was finding a way to force Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end the unit government he recently formed with Hamas.
The Israeli daily Haaretz also said that Defense 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.
Hoenlein said there is intense pressure on Netanyahu to act.
“(Netanyahu) will have no choice but to act in a decisive way, because you cannot continue to have the country subjected to these threats,” Hoenlein said. “You know, there were 60 attempts at kidnapping since January 2013.”
Israel has said two well-known Hamas operatives from Hebron are the primary suspects. The men, Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisheh, have not been seen since the teens went missing, and military officials said the search for them would continue.