On Monday evening the bodies of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shear, and Eyal Ifrach, the three Israeli teenage boys kidnapped on their way home from school on June 12, were found by Israeli forces and volunteers in a field northwest of the West Bank town of Hebron, very close to where they were kidnapped.
Trying to hitch a ride home on the evening of the 12th, they were shot dead, it turns out, very soon after entering the car of the Hamas kidnappers—either because one of the three boys, Gilad, managed briefly to phone the police or because that was the terrorists’ intention in any case. If it was not their intention, then they likely aimed to sequester Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal somewhere and try to extort a prisoner swap from Israel.
That detail is still not known because the two Hamas operatives the Israeli authorities have fingered as the kidnappers, Hebron residents Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Isa, are still at large. Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, the three Israeli boys were buried together in the Israeli town of Modi’in even though they lived in separate communities. The joint funeral was attended by tens of thousands, with eulogies by, among others, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
So ended 19 days of tension and hope, marked by an upsurge of the extraordinary solidarity that lies at the deepest stratum of Israeli Jewish society, despite often bitter fractiousness. They were also 19 days of intensive activity by the Israeli security forces, who, in addition to searching for Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal, arrested hundreds of Hamas operatives, confiscating the terror organization’s funds and closing its institutions and media outlets.