Three Israeli teens kidnapped in the West Bank in June and later found dead were abducted by Hamas militants who did not inform the group leadership about the kidnapping, a Hamas official said Friday.
“At that time, the Hamas leadership had no knowledge about this group or the operation it had just carried,” Saleh Aruri, a Hamas Political Bureau member, said in a statement from Doha, Qatar. “It turned out later, however, that they were members of Hamas.”
Aruri said the operation to abduct the teens was not approved by the Hamas leadership or its military wing, the Qassam Brigades.
Tensions between Israel and Hamas ratcheted up June 30 after the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank.
Israel blamed the disappearances and deaths on Hamas. “Hamas will pay,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The three bodies were found northwest of Hebron, according to the Israeli military.
The teens – Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frankel, a 16-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen – disappeared late June 12 or early June 13 from the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in the West Bank, the military said.