Calling the murderers of the three kidnapped teenagers "beasts," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday evening that "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay."
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Netanyahu said in a statement: "In great agony, we found three dead bodies this evening, and all signs are that these are the dead bodies of our three kidnapped youths – Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.
"They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts," he continued. "In the name of the entire people of Israel, I wish to say to the dear families – the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the sisters and brothers – that our hearts bleed, the whole nation cries with you. We will bring the boys for burial in Israel. Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created. Neither has vengeance for the blood of 3 pure youths who were on their way home to see their parents – who will not see them again. Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay. May the memories of the three boys be blessed."
President Shimon Peres said Israel's retribution would be harsh.
"The whole nation blows its head this evening with a grief too heavy to bear," Peres said in a statement. "These 18 days the nation has prayed in one voice that our wonderful boys would be found alive and well. Now, upon receiving the bitter news, the people of Israel mourn the untimely deaths of the best of our young. Alongside this heavy sorrow, we are determined to punish the wicked terrorists with a strong hand. Our war against terror will get stronger, it will not weaken, so that this murderous terror will not dare raise its head."
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said, "There is no explanation or human justification [for the murders] and I'm sure that that the long arm of the security forces will reach the murderers. We have known painful attacks and overcame them, and so it will be this time. This is our life in this country."
Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On described the murders as a "war crime," but called for a judicial rather than military response, and also insisted that Palestinian moderates be strengthened and not punished. “The boys’ kidnapping and murder is a war crime that must be punished with the full severity of the law. Nevertheless, precisely at this moment, it’s vital to distinguish between those responsible for this wicked act and between the Palestinians who denounced it, first and foremost the president of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen,” she stated, using Mahmoud Abbas’ nickname.
Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid) called on Abbas to dissolve his unity government with Hamas. "I once again urge Abu Mazen to immediately dissociate himself from the murderous terrorist organization Hamas, which perpetrated this abominable crime,” said Perry.
Right calls for Hamas' destruction
Right-wing members of the Israeli government called for the destruction of Hamas following the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers on Monday.
"This tragic ending must also be the end of Hamas! The nation is strong and ready to absorb [attacks] for the sake of striking a mortal blow against Hamas," said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud).
"[W]e have to destroy the homes of Hamas activists, wipe out their arsenals everywhere, and stop the flow of money that directly or indirectly keeps terror alive," Danon added.
Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said, "The despicable kidnapping and murder of the students cannot go by in silence, and those responsible in Gaza must pay the price. The government of Israel must declare a war to the death on Hamas, which is responsible for the murders, and return to the policy of assassination."
Hotovely's call for the resumption of targeted assassinations against Hamas activists was joined by Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud). Ariel also called for "an appropriate Zionist response," meaning an increase in West Bank settlement building.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, head of Habayit Hayehudi, said, "The murder of children is unforgivable. Our hearts are with the families right now. Now is the time for actions, not talk."