Search goes on for Israel teens missing in West Bank

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli security forces were searching on Saturday for three teenagers who went missing near a West Bank settlement, the army said, amid media speculation they may have been kidnapped by Palestinians.

The three, all students at a Jewish seminary, went missing late Thursday as they were hitchhiking between Bethlehem and Hebron.

"Search activity, both operational and in terms of intelligence, is continuing," a spokeswoman said, refusing to confirm speculation about a possible kidnapping.

"For us, these three youths are missing," was all she would say.

An AFP journalist said the army had set up roadblocks in the southern West Bank and was searching vehicles.

Troops also closed the main crossings into the Gaza Strip to prevent the three, one of whom also holds US citizenship, from being smuggled out of Israel.

A rocket was fired from the territory into Israel early Saturday without causing any casualties or damage, the army said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry Friday, and said he holds Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas responsible for the teenagers' safety.

Mr Kerry also telephoned Mr Abbas, a Palestinian source said.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority's security services, General Adnan al-Damiri, called Mr Netanyahu's suggestions "mad."

General Damiri said that the PA had no authority over the sprawling Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which is under full Israeli control.

"Even if there was an earthquake, Netanyahu would blame the Palestinian Authority," he told AFP.

Another Palestinian official said the authority's security services were "cooperating" with Israeli agencies to gather information on the teenagers' disappearance.

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