World Bulletin/News Desk
Israeli forces are searching for three Jewish teenagers who went missing in the occupied West Bank late Thursday, the military said on Friday, amid reports the trio might have been kidnapped by Palestinian militants.
Israeli soldiers scoured the countryside around the flashpoint city of Hebron after the youths vanished in the area during the night.
"Forces are conducting a widespread operation to locate the individuals," the military said in a statement, adding that the youths had gone missing close to the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion to the north of Hebron.
The military did not name the missing teenagers. Haaretz newspaper said two were aged 16 and one was 19, adding that they were believed to have been trying to hitch a lift when they disappeared.
Local media added that one of the three also held American citizenship, and that the U.S. ambassador to Israel had been briefed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special meeting of security ministers and said in a statement that Israel held President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority responsible for the safety of the three.
"Three settlers are missing - why is this the fault of the Palestinian Authority? We have nothing to do with this issue. If a natural disaster hits Israel, would we be responsible? This is mad and unacceptable. We have no knowledge about this," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry "expressed grave concern ... and ... our commitment to working with both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to try to ensure the situation is resolved quickly and the teenagers are returned to their families," a U.S. spokesman said.
"Secretary Kerry has ... spoken to President Abbas to urge him to do everything possible to assist in the effort to find them. President Abbas assured him that he is doing so."
"The prime minister said to Kerry: Abu Mazen (Abbas) is responsible for the wellbeing of the missing (boys)," part of the Israeli statement about the conversation said.Last Mod: 14 Haziran 2014, 16:56