Israel launches Gaza air strike after missing teens’ bodies found

Israel bombed dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, striking at Hamas after finding the bodies of three missing teenagers whose abduction and killing it blames on the Palestinian Islamist group. Israel’s security cabinet, which held an emergency session late on Monday and was due to meet again on Tuesday, was split on the scope of any further action in the coastal enclave or in the occupied West Bank, officials said. The United States and regional power-broker Egypt urged restraint.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised Hamas would pay after the discovery of the three Jewish seminary students’ bodies under rocks near the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday.
The military said aircraft attacked 34 sites, mostly belonging to Hamas, though its statement did not link the strikes to the abductions. Palestinian medics said two people were slightly wounded. The military cited 18 Palestinian rockets launched against Israel from Gaza in the past two days.
The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the disappearance of the students as they hitchhiked near a Jewish settlement on June 12 nor in the cross-border rocket salvoes from Gaza.  The funerals of Gil-Ad Shaer and US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19 were due to take place later on Tuesday in the Israeli city of Modi’in, where they were to be buried side-by-side.

At the security cabinet meeting, the army proposed ‘considered and moderate actions’ against militants in the West Bank, officials said. Any sustained campaign there could undermine US-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But the cabinet did not agree on a future course of action at that session, officials added. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against going too far. ‘The response of the resistance has been limited, and Netanyahu must not test Hamas’s patience,’ said Abu Zuhri, whose group’s arsenal includes rockets that can reach Tel Aviv. Netanyahu seized on the abduction to demand Abbas annul a reconciliation deal he reached with Hamas, his long-time rival, in April that led to a unity Palestinian government on June 2.
An Arab diplomat familiar with Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Palestinians said that Cairo, echoing Washington, expected the Netanyahu government to tread carefully.

‘I don’t believe Israel is ready, just yet, to change the status quo,’ he told Reuters on condition of anonymity. ‘It can punish those who did the crime, but should not get out of control with civilians who had nothing to do with the crime.’ In the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said troops opened fire at a man, identified by Palestinian officials as Yousouf Al-Zagha, 19, who threw a grenade at soldiers attempting to arrest a militant in Jenin refugee camp. A Palestinian witness said Zagha was an innocent passerby.  The men Israel has accused of carrying out the abductions are still at large. Israeli media said the break in the case came after their relatives were interrogated.

Troops set off explosions in the family homes of the alleged abductors late on Monday, blowing open a doorway in one, an army spokeswoman said. The other property was on fire after the blast. Soldiers, who arrested one of the suspect’s father and brothers, ordered the inhabitants of the dwellings to leave before the detonations.
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