The New York Times is reporting that three teens kidnapped in the West Bank on June 12th are dead. The teens — one of whom is a U.S. citizen — went missing after reportedly hitch-hiking from a frequently trafficked highway junction outside the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion, just south of Jerusalem.
The deaths of the teens brings Israel and the two major Palestinian factions to a potentially-explosive crisis point.
Israel has blamed the murders on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas recently joined an American-funded unity government with Fatah, the nationalist party that governs the Palestinian Authority, and that has partnered with Israel on security in the West Bank — and aided in the search for the now-murdered teens.
Israeli forces have already arrested nearly all of Hamas’s top West Bank operatives in response to the kidnapping. It could next attempt to completely dismantle Hamas’s infrastructure in Gaza as well. Precedent suggests an air campaign backed with the possibility of a large-scale ground operation and the buildup of ground forces along the Israeli-Gazan border.
A crucial question in the coming days is whether the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to potentially jeopardize Israel’s international standing through a large-scale response — or whether domestic and national security considerations will win out.
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