Israeli soldiers searching
Israeli soldiers searching for the kidnapped youths on the outskirts of Hebron, June 2014. Photo by AFP
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Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer.
Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer.

The search for the three kidnapped yeshiva students entered its fourth day on Monday. The Israeli military on Sunday called up a limited number of reserves and is now focusing most of its efforts to find Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, Gilad Shaar, 16, from Talmon, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon in the Hebron area.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Sunday that Hamas is behind the abduction. Netanyahu asserted that he holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the teens' fate. The Ma'an Palestinian news agency quoted Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, as saying that Israel "has a lot of information on the kidnapping case. The investigation is conducted in absolute secrecy."

On Sunday it was cleared for publication that one of the abducted teens managed to call the police emergency line immediately after he was taken, at 10:25 P.M. on Thursday and said: "We've been kidnapped."

The security cabinet convened Monday to further discuss efforts to locate the three teenagers. One of the ideas being considered is to expel senior Hamas members from the West Bank to Gaza, as a way of pressuring the organization. The Justice Ministry convened on Sunday to explore whether such steps are in keeping with international law.

The U.S. on Sunday condemned the kidnapping, and called for the immediate release of the three teens. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. is still looking for information as to who is behind the incident, but adds that "many indications point to Hamas’ involvement." The military's working assumption is that the three are still in the West Bank.

Click here for Sunday's live blog.

Latest updates:

23:28 The IDF reports that one Palestinian was shot and seriously wounded while attempting to breach the security barrier in the area of Kochav Yaacov. The army said it was unaware of reports of additional wounded.In disruptions in Beit Omer, the IDF shot rubber bullets and stun and gas grenades at several dozen Palestinians throwing rocks at the security forces. No injuries were reported. (Gili Cohen) 

23:20 Rocket explodes in an open field adjacent to Ashkelon. No siren was sounded and no injuries have been reported. (Shirley Seidler)

23:19 Two fire-bombs thrown at Beit Orot Yeshiva in East Jerusalem. No injuries reported. (Nir Hasson)

23:15 Two Israelis, one an 18-month-old baby, have been lightly injured in rock-throwing near Kfar Azoun in the Shomron. (Chaim Levinson)

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18:40 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers an official televised statement:

"We are in the middle of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the fact that it may take more time," he said. "It is a serious incident and will have grave consequences."

He also urged members of the international community to speak out against the abduction: "I call on those in the international community that condemn us for building in Jerusalem to clearly condemn this kidnapping," he said."

With regard to the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip over the last few days, during the operation to find the missing teens, Netanyahu said: "We will retaliate forcefully against any rocket fire from Gaza. Anybody who attempts to attack Israeli citizens will be targeted."

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon addressed the media following Netanyahu's statement, declaring: "This abduction will not pass without Hamas paying a big price."

14:25 Israel's security cabinet has convened to discuss the West Bank kidnapping. The ministers are to be briefed on the investigation and to discuss possible measures against Hamas. The options being considered include expelling top Hamas operatives from the West Bank to Gaza, demolishing operatives' homes and imposing sanctions on Hamas inmates in Israeli prisons. (Barak Ravid)

13:20Israeli security forces shoot rubber bullets at Palestinians who threw rocks at Israeli soldiers at a Hebron checkpoint. (Gili Cohen) 

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12:32 P.M. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit has called on the Israeli public to refrain from "spreading unfounded rumors" via social media. (Gili Cohen)

12:40 P.M. Germany has called for the release of three Israeli teenagers believed to have been abducted in the West Bank. 

"We are concerned about the whereabouts of three youngsters who disappeared... There are some indications that the three have been kidnapped. If this is the case, we condemned this action and urge those responsible to release them, free of harm, immediately," a German foreign ministry spokesman said. "This has come at a time of considerable tension in the Palestinian territories, it is therefore in the interests of everyone to prevent any further escalation," he added.  (Reuters)

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11:58 A.M. In first conversation in over a year, Abbas called Netanyahu on Monday and Netanyahu told him he expected him to help return the abducted teens and catch their abductors."The abductors from Hamas came from an area under Palestinian Authority control and returned to PA-controlled territory," Netanyahu said. "It's important to understand the consequences of the unity with Hamas – it's bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for the area.

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"This incident reveals the character of the terror that we are fighting," he said. "Terrorists abduct innocent Israeli children while we give medical care in our hospitals to sick Palestinian children. That is the difference between our humane policy and the murderous terror that is attacking us." 

Following the conversation, Abbas issued the statement condemning the kidnapping. (Barak Ravid)

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11:38 A.M. The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issues a first statement condemning the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. "Both sides should refrain from violence," the statement said. 

Abbas condemned the kidnapping and the sequence of events that followed, including the death of a Palestinian youth in a clash with Israeli soldiers. He called on both sides to refrain from violence, and lauded the Palestinian security forces for their efforts to "stop the PA from being dragged into disorder and prevent the factions from taking advantage of the situation for non-nationalistic purposes." He expressed intention to continue the struggle to free Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

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10:57 A.M. The IDF says three soldiers were lightly wounded by rocks thrown at them during the clashes in the al-Jilazoun refugee camp. Military officials add that a gun and two cartridges were found at a nearby home; the resident has been taken in for questioning.

10:55 A.M. Knesset Member Shaul Mofaz warns of "earth-shattering" consequences if the three missing teens are hurt.

 10:34 A.M. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch says thousands of soldiers and police have been deployed in search of the three missing teens.

"We're doing everything to bring the abductees home," he said, reiterating that Hamas is behind the kidnapping and that Israel is holding the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, responsible.

9:40 A.M.: The IDF confirms that a Palestinian man, Ahmad Asabarin, 23, was shot to death overnight by Israeli forces in the Jilazoun refugee camp in the West Bank. The IDF says the youth was shot after he threw a large brick toward the soldiers.Two other youths were moderately hurt in the clashes. (Gili Cohen)

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9:30 A.M. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said during a briefing on Sunday night that the military's foremost goals are to "find the three boys and bring them home, and to hurt Hamas as much as possible." (Gili Cohen)

7:41 A.M. According to reports in Gaza, four sustain light and moderate wounds in an IAF strike on a Hamas base. (Gili Cohen and Jack Khoury)

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6:54 A.M. The IDF arrests 40 Palestinians in the West Bank overnight, including Palestinian parliament speaker Aziz Duwaik. So far 150 Palestinians have been arrested as part of the search for the missing teens.

Top military officials convene for a briefing and decide against expanding the scope of the military operation. Arrests of Hamas operatives in the West Bank are expected to continue.

A senior IDF official says the military is not aware of a Palestinian who was killed during the clashes in the al-Jilazoun refugee camp. The death was reported earlier by Palestinian medical staff and witnesses. According to the official, the report is being investigated, as are reports of Palestinians wounded in IAF strikes in Gaza.

The IDF believes that the Islamic Jihad was behind Sunday night's rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas was not responsible for the attack, a military official says. (Gili Cohen)

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5:45 A.M. Three Palestinians were reportedly wounded in an Israeli air strike on Gaza, including 3-year-old child. The IDF earlier on Monday issued a statement that said it conducted an aerial strike in the Gaza Strip as a response to rocket fire from Gaza on Sunday. (DPA)

5:25 A.M. A 20-year-old Palestinian was killed and another was wounded during clashes with Israeli forces near Ramallah, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

Witnesses say Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers conducting house-to-house searches in al-Jilazoun refugee camp, outside Ramallah, before dawn. (Reuters)

3:15 A.M. Israel Air Force strikes five targets in the Gaza Strip, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit says in a statement. One of the targets was described as a "center for terrorist activity" and three others are said to be weapons-manufacturing and storage sites – all in the northern Gaza Strip – and another location of terrorist activity in the Strip's south. The IDF says direct hits were identified.

The stament says that the strike was a response to the rocket fire from Gaza toward southern Israel on Sunday. (Gili Cohen)

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12:22 A.M. The government is weighing whether to expel senior Hamas men from the West Bank to Gaza as a way of pressuring the organization to help resolve the kidnapping of the three teens. A senior Israeli official says the Justice Ministry had held a discussion Sunday on whether this was legally feasible.

The assessments and discussions in the Prime Minister’s Office over the past few days have included talk of ways of punishing Hamas aimed at pressuring the organization’s senior officials. The senior Israeli source says among the options discussed are expelling senior Hamas men from the West Bank to Gaza, demolishing the homes of Hamas operatives and sanctions against Hamas inmates in Israeli prisoners.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, together with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and other ministry officials, convened on Sunday to explore whether such steps were in keeping with international law and would stand up to challenges in the High Court of Justice. No decisions were made Sunday, but research into the issue is continuing. (Barak Ravid)