The already turbulent online discourse between Israeli and Palestinian supporters took a vicious turn Monday, when the bodies of three Jewish teens were discovered near the West Bank city of Hebron.
Although final confirmation of the boys identities had not been given, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gil-ad Sha'er, 16 and Naftali Frankel, 16, are believed to be the victims found, according to sources within the Israeli government.
Volunteers discovered the remains in a shallow grave covered by rocks in a field close to the village of Halhoul, according to a report delivered on Israeli army radio.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a cabinet meeting on Monday by condemning the act. "Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay," he said.
Since the search began shortly after the three teens went missing on June 12, more than 400 Palestinians have been arrested by the Israeli military.
Both the United States and United Kingdom, close allies of Israel, issued statements condemning the acts of murder.
President Barack Obama said the U.S. "condemns in the strongest possible terms this senseless act of terror against innocent youth," and urged "all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation."
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said, “Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those responsible."
Online, the talk of users was a mix of support for the families of the deceased and fear over what acts of retribution might be taken by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Others called for swift justice and encouraged military, or even vigilante, action with the hashtag “#AvengeOurBoys.”
A hashtag started on Twitter weeks ago demanding the return of the kidnapped teens is now awash with statistics concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “One Palestinian child killed by Israel every 3 days for past 13 years #BringBackOurBoys,” one user wrote. Another pointed to Mustafa Aslan, 24, the sixth Palestinian confirmed killed during “Operation Brother’s Keeper,” the name of the IDF operation to find the deceased teens.
We don't need candles, we need Molotov cocktails #AvengeOurBoys— israelforever (@israelforever) June 30, 2014
Meanwhile, Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk threatened to effectively end hopes of a Palestinian unity government, the product of April talks between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. "I'm afraid that Hamas will be forced to reassume control of Gaza since the Strip cannot exist in a vacuum," Marzouk, a key figure responsible for the Fatah-Hamas Gaza Agreement, wrote on Facebook. “It is currently not under the jurisdiction of the previous government nor the national unity government."
Photo by momo/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)