Kidnapped teens’ families meet for first time

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The families of the three kidnapped Israeli teens met together for the first time.

The parents and other family members of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel met Tuesday morning at the Frenkel’s home in Nof Ayalon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the families by phone during their meeting.

“We are doing everything to find Eyal, Gilad and Naftali,” Netanyahu told the families. “We are working in the field, putting in a massive operational and intelligence effort.”

“In the name of Israel’s citizens, I would like to strengthen your spirits,” Netanyahu said.

The three Israeli teens, including one dual Israeli-American citizen, have been missing since the night of June 12. They were last seen trying to get rides home from a junction in Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements located south of Jerusalem.

“We just wish to hug our children. Eyal, Gil-Ad, Naftali – we love you, and we miss you. Be strong,” Rachel Frenkel told reporters after the meeting, which she described as “very emotional.”

About 200 West Bank Palestinians, including many senior Hamas members, have been arrested in Israeli military operations in the search for the teens.

Also on Tuesday, the European Union condemned the kidnapping and called for the safe return of the teens.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the abduction of three Israeli students in the West Bank and call for their immediate release and safe return to their families. Such acts can only undermine international efforts to encourage a resumption of peace negotiations. We are following developments closely and remain in constant contact with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts,” the EU statement said.

“The EU encourages continued close cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services to ensure the swift release of the abductees,” it concluded.

The statement came a day after Israeli officials criticized the lack of a statement on the kidnapping from the EU, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

On Monday night, Netanyahu urged the international community to decry the kidnapping, which he blames on Hamas.

“I call on those in the international community that condemn us for building a porch in Jerusalem to clearly condemn this kidnapping,” he said.