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Obama condemns 'senseless act of terror against innocent youth'

World in shock: Leaders condemn killings of three Israeli teens as security situation threatens to deteriorate in West Bank.

Yitzhak Benhorin
Published: 07.01.14, 00:05 / Israel News

US President Barack Obama expressed his condolences Monday night for the loss of Israel's three kidnapped teens after their bodies were found just north of Hebron in the West Bank. He also warned of any further conflict between Israelis and Palestinians saying, "I also urge all parties to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation."

 

Notably, Obama addressed the bereaved families of the Israeli boys. "On behalf of the American people I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Frenkel – who held Israeli and American citizenship. As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing."

 

His comments included condemnation of "this senseless act of terror against innocent youth." He continued on to voice solidarity with Israel. "As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States."

 

Secretary of State John Kerry also released a statement Monday night: "We condemn this despicable terrorist act in the strongest possible terms. The killing of innocent youths is an outrage beyond any understanding or rationale, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. This is a time for all to work towards that goal without destabilizing the situation. "

 

US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was the first American official to address the issue earlier in the evening. She spoke to reporters, calling for restraint from Palestinians and Israelis alike as the first reports began filtering in that security forces may have found the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers who had been kidnapped nearly three weeks ago.

 

Though Psaki initially declined to confirm the reports, Israeli authorities released shortly after that the bodies of Yifrach, 19, Frenkel, 16, and Shaer, 16, had been found near the village of Halhul, north of Hebron.

 

The new White House Spokesman Josh Earnest was then put on the spot as the facts of the discovery were confirmed. He stated that, "We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms violence that takes the lives of innocent civilians."

 

US Senator Robert Menendez issued a statement from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stressing the difficult emotions tied up in the death of the teens. "During this somber period, we pray for their parents and communities who are heartbroken at this hour and overwhelmed by grief."

 

"This act of terrorism strikes at the heart of freedom loving people the world over and we stand with Israel as it works to bring to justice those who committed this murderous act. Over these past 18 days, the Jewish community and people of good faith in New Jersey, the United States, and throughout the world demonstrated an unbreakable unity of spirit in praying for Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal’s swift return," said Menendez.

 

Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor acted quickly, demanding that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon press the Security Council to condemn the murder of the youth, the firing of missiles, and the unity government between Fatah and Hamas.

 

"In the past few weeks, Israel has come under attack and felt the bitter devastation that comes with Hamas in a Palestinian government. Since the formation of the unity government on 2 June 2014, over 70 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel," said Prosor.

 

Ban responded to Prosor and the incident in a public statement. "There can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians. This heinous act by enemies of peace aims to further entrench division and distrust and to widen the conflict. It must not be allowed to succeed."

 

Additional reactions were quickly publicized from the international community including French President François Hollande who "strongly condemned" the "cowardly assassination" of the three young boys.

 

The French president expressed his concern at the upsurge in violence in recent days in the West Bank and Gaza. He condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli territory and demanded that, "everything (must) be done to avoid further casualties and the risk of an escalation of violence."

 

At the same time the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he was "deeply shocked and upset by the news of the murder of three young people." He also expressed his "horror" and "indignation" at "these heinous crimes."

 

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said, "We condemn in the strongest terms their killing. We express our sincere condolences to their families and friends and share their grief. We trust the perpetrators of this barbaric act will swiftly be brought to justice. We call for restraint of all parties concerned in order not to further aggravate the fragile situation on the ground."

 

British Prime Minister David Cameron also weighed in on the tragedy saying, "I am deeply saddened by the news that the bodies of the three Israeli boys kidnapped on 12 June have been found this evening."

 

"This was an appalling and inexcusable act of terror perpetrated against young teenagers," continued the prime minister. "Britain will stand with Israel as it seeks to bring to justice those responsible. Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with the famlies of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. No parent should have ever to suffer such heartache or grief."

 

Quartet Representative Tony Blair commented on the issue saying, "I am shocked and appalled by the heinous and wicked kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers, and my heartfelt sympathy and condolences go to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer."

 

"There can be no justification for this act, there can be no compromise with those responsible, and the whole international community should be united in condemning it," concluded Blair. 

 

The Anti-Defamation League said, "We extend our sincerest condolences to the Yifrach, Shaar and Fraenkel families. We take this opportunity to affirm our solidarity with the State of Israel at this difficult time and to condemn all those who engage in and support terrorism. We reiterate our support for Israel’s right to self-defense."

 

The Vatican spokesman condemned the killings as a "hideous and unacceptable crime" while noting that it threatened the hope of peace. He stated that Pope Francis who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in April, was united with the families of the victims who were suffering "unspeakable pain".

 

Meanwhile, Canada's foreign Minister John Baird took to Facebook to express his "heartfelt condolences" to the families. "Israel is a country that faces unimaginable threats from terrorist organizations, like Hamas, on a daily basis. Canada has, and will always condemn murderous terrorist attacks like we've seen today."

 

"We stand with all Israelis on this painful day, and we offer Canada's unwavering support as they mourn the loss of three young men who were taken from their families and friends far too early," he wrote.

 

The Chairman of the Jewish Federations Board of Trustees expressed horror at the death of the kids saying, "It is simply unimaginable that anyone could commit such a heinous and despicable act such as this. There is no reason – none – why a tragedy like this should have occurred. The Jewish Federations stand alongside our brothers and sisters across the world and in Israel in condemnation of this senseless murder, and we pray that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.”

 

Associated Press, Reuters, and the AFP contributed to this report.

 

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