WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 — The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the same terrorist group taking over Iraq, reportedly has claimed responsibility for kidnapping three teenagers in the West Bank last week, according to Israeli media.
The Dawlat al-Islam group, an affiliate of ISIS, called Reuters Jerusalem and said it was behind the kidnapping. According to the caller, the attack was in retaliation for the killing of three of its members.
At the same time, the group distributed flyers near Hebron. The notices, written in Arabic, said, “Thanks to Allah, our holy warriors were able to kidnap three Zionist aggressors in the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.”
The flyers further state that the attack was “part of the initial response to the assassination of our heroic holy warriors in Hebron, “Muhammad Nairoukh,” 29 years old, “Mahmoud Al-Najjar,” 23 years old, and Musi Makhamreh,” 22 years old. And that [also] comes as part of the pursuit to liberate our prisoners from the occupation forces’ prisons. And it is [either] a jihad [for] victory or martyrdom.”
Despite the statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames Hamas, the Palestinian group that has ruled Gaza Strip for years, for the kidnappings.
In a statement today, Netanyahu said, “This morning I can say what I was unable to say yesterday before the extensive wave of arrests of Hamas members in Judea and Samaria,” he said, “Those who perpetrated the abduction of our youths were members of Hamas — the same Hamas that Abu Mazen made a unity government with. This has severe repercussions.”
Hamas, which did not take responsibility for the kidnapping, applauded the move, saying, “the Hebron operation is a great success for the [Palestinian] resistance in the West Bank.” It called Netanyahu’s statement blaming Hamas for the abductions “silly.”
Hamas has previously called for its members to kidnap Israelis to use them to trade for Palestinian prisoners.
The victims are two 16-year-olds, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah. The students were abducted while hitchhiking in the West Bank last Thursday near the Israeli village of Alon Shvut. One of the victims reportedly sent an alert to local security officials before his cellphone went dead.
Israel has responded to the abductions with a massive security crackdown. The military arrested 80 Palestinians over night, including senior Hamas members, and closed Hebron and three border crossings into Gaza.
Earlier this year, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian authority broke down when Palestinian Authority leader Mohammed Abbas announced he was joining with Hamas in a unity government. Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization, immediately left peace talks and has refused to negotiate with any government that contains Hamas.
The kidnappings will heighten tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and will likely pressure the new unity government.
More violence is likely, with Palestinian militants retaliating for Israel’s security efforts to find the boys.
Israel may also put some of the blame for the kidnapping on the United States. The recent swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners may have emboldened militants to maneuver for similar trades.
Meanwhile, ISIS continues its march toward Baghdad in Iraq, and has released gruesome photos of mass killings. The group is known for its extremist actions, leading even al-Qaeda to distance itself from the group.