Hamas Denies Blame for Teens' Murders, Gaza Braces for Israeli Strike

If Israel attacks it will open gates of hell, Hamas warns; Palestinian Authority holds emergency meeting after discovery of kidnapped teens' bodies.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Palestinian militants of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' armed wing, Gaza Strip, in 2014.
Palestinian militants of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' armed wing, Gaza Strip, in 2014.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Hamas in Gaza responded Monday evening to the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teens, kidnapped on June 12, denying complicity in the kidnapping and blaming Israel for "preparing the ground" for an attack against Gaza.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip said the different Palestinian factions in Gaza have announced a state of high alert and are preparing for an Israeli attack.

Click here for latest updates on aftermath of teens' murder

Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, Gilad Shaar, 16, from Talmon and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon went missing from a hitchhiking station at the Gush Etzion intersection on June 12. Their bodies were found Monday evening north of the Palestinian town Halhul, just north of Hebron. In an emergency meeting of the security cabinet, Netanyahu accused Hamas of the murders, saying: "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay."

Hamas in Gaza, however, said that no Palestinian faction has accepted responsibility for the murders and that the Israeli version must not be trusted. The group's spokesperson in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, told AFP that if Israel attacks Hamas, it will "open the gates of hell."

Interviewed for the Hamas TV channel, Abu Zuhri said: "We'll not sit idly by if we're attacked. Israel better be prepared to pay the price. We don't want any military confrontation with Israel, but if it will be forced on us it will look like in previous rounds."

The Islamic Jihad in Gaza has also responded to the developments, calling on Palestinians to be prepared for an Israeli attack. "I call on everyone to take Israel's threats seriously," said Khaled al-Batash, a top member of the group. "Israel's threats will not frighten us, on the contrary, they will only strengthen our stance and the righteousness of our ways."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority refrained from issuing any formal statement, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has convened an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank on Monday night, his spokesperson told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

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