On June 12, 2014, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped three teenage boys (Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifra), who were hitchhiking outside Alon Shvut, a West Bank settlement not far from Jerusalem. One of the boys called a police emergency hotline and reported that they had been kidnapped – a call that was later leaked to the Israeli public.
Although some claim that Israeli investigators knew almost immediately that the boys were dead, the IDF launched a massive search for the boys, and detained several Hamas leaders in the process. Controversy remains around the question of whether the kidnapping was an organized Hamas operation or the result of a lone cell – i.e. a group of terrorists acting independently.
On June 30, the bodies of the three boys were found near Hebron. Since then, two suspects in the case were killed in a shootout with the IDF. A military court sentenced the third to three lifetimes in jail and ordered him to pay compensation to the victims’ families.
The kidnapping provoked strong reactions in Israeli society. Calls for revenge became popular, both in the form of mass gatherings and Facebook campaigns. Attempted kidnappings and harassment of Palestinians, in Israel and in the territories, were reported in the media amidst violent clashes, especially in Hebron.
Two days after the bodies were found, on July 2, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian from a refugee camp in East Jerusalem, was forced into a car. Upon learning of his disappearance, his parents called the Israeli police, who found his body a few hours later in a forest near Jerusalem. Autopsy results suggested he had been burned alive.
While the attack was broadly condemned by Israeli leaders, others, including the family of Abu Khdeir blamed the incitement to violence in Israeli society as provoking the murder. Shortly after the kidnapping, several suspects, affiliated with right wing extremist Jewish elements, were arrested and confessed.