Three Jewish youths missing in West Bank, feared abducted

(JTA) — The Israeli military is searching for three teenagers who have gone missing in the West Bank and are feared to have been kidnapped.

The Israeli teenagers went missing on Thursday night, according to a statement released by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit.

“The individuals were last seen late last night in the area of Gush Etzion. Forces are conducting a widespread operation in order to locate the individuals,” a statement Friday on the IDF website read.

One of the three teens has American citizenship, Ynet reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was being briefed about the missing youths on Friday afternoon at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday, Army Radio reported, adding that unnamed security officials feared the three youths had been abducted. According to Ynet, Shin Bet is working under the assumption that the youths are being held by terrorists.

“Israel considers the Palestinian Authority responsible for the youths’ safety,” the news site Ynet quoted a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Bureau as saying.

The briefing included representatives from Shin Bet, the Israel domestic security service, the IDF chief of staff and two ministers.

Reports in Israeli media did not name the three missing youths. Army Radio quoted a person who knows one of the youths as saying “the boys have a lot of faith,” adding that the family of the youth he knows is surrounded by local rabbis from their city and family as they await news of the youths’ whereabouts.

 In Chicago, Jewish Federation President Steven Nasatir said "We pray for the safe return of the three young men and send our thoughts and best wishes to their families.

"We look to the new Palestinian Unity government to do everything in its power to assist Israel in achieving their safe return," Nasatir said. "Kidnapping Israelis has been a signature Hamas tactic, and thus, how the new Palestinian Authority responds to this kidnapping will have far reaching repurcussions. But for now, our focus and our hopes are centered on those three Israeli teenagers."

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