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Senior Hamas official says group abducted 3 Israel teens whose deaths led to war in Gaza

Published on Aug 21, 2014 7:26 PM
 
A top Hamas official said members of his militant group kidnapped three Israeli teenagers - (from left) Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaer - whose deaths in June provoked a spiral of violence that led to the war in Gaza, the first acknowledgement of the movement's involvement. -- PHOTO: AFP

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - A top Hamas official said members of his militant group kidnapped three Israeli teenagers whose deaths in June provoked a spiral of violence that led to the war in Gaza, the first acknowledgement of the movement's involvement.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has up to now refused to confirm or deny Israeli accusations that it masterminded the abduction and killing of the three young men, one of them a joint United States-Israeli citizen, in Hebron.

"There was much speculation about this operation, some said it was a conspiracy," Mr Saleh al-Arouri told delegates at the International Union of Islamic Scholars in Istanbul on Wednesday, according to a recording of the meeting posted online by organisers. "The popular will was exercised throughout our occupied land, and culminated in the heroic operation by the Qassam Brigades in imprisoning the three settlers in Hebron," he said, referring to Hamas' armed wing. "This was an operation from your brothers in Qassam undertaken to aid their brothers on hunger strike in (Israeli) prisons," he added.

Jewish seminary students Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, were abducted while hitchiking in the Israeli occupied West Bank on June 12 and killed.

 
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