By July 9, Israeli forces had attacked more than 450 sites, including dozens of houses, vehicles carrying Hamas leaders, and suspected launch pads and weapons caches. Public health officials in Gaza said the same day that 35 people had been killed so far and at least 300 wounded, including women and children. The operation destroyed more targets in its first 36 hours than during a similar weeklong offensive in 2012, a senior Israeli military official told the Jerusalem Post.
Hamas began firing the missiles — many of them successfully intercepted by Israeli rockets — after hundreds of alleged Hamas members were arrested by Israeli police in the West Bank following the June 12 kidnapping of the three Jewish youth — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16. Their bodies were found June 30. Israeli authorities charge they were killed by members of Hamas.
Some ultrarightists demonstrated in Jerusalem during the July 1 funerals for the three chanting, “Death to the Arabs” and “No Arabs, no terror attacks.”
The next day Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian, was kidnapped near his home in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem and reportedly burned alive.
After his son’s death, Mohammed’s father Hussein Abu Khdeir appealed for “both sides to stop the bloodshed.”
Hundreds of Palestinians protesting the murder clashed with Israeli police July 3. During the protest Mohammed’s cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, a high school sophomore visiting from Tampa, Florida, was beaten unconscious by Israeli border police and arrested. The beating was caught on an amateur video.
On July 6, police arrested six Israeli Jews who they said killed Mohammed in revenge.
Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali, issued a statement July 7. “Even in the abyss of mourning for Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, it is difficult for me to describe how distressed we are by the outrage committed in Jerusalem,” she said, “the shedding of innocent blood in defiance of all morality, of the Torah, of the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in the country.”
The day before two Palestinians from the Hebron area visited the Fraenkel’s residence in Nof Ayalon to offer their condolences.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the killing of Abu Khdeir and called the family to offer condolences. “I would like to express my outrage and that of the citizens of Israel over the reprehensible murder of your son,” Netanyahu told the teen’s father July 7. “We acted immediately to apprehend the murderers. We will bring them to trial and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.”
The family rejected Netanyahu’s condolences. “We refuse to accept the condolences of someone who agrees on the murder of our people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza,” an unnamed family member told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
The killing was widely condemned in Israel. “It gives legitimacy to our enemies to do what they want to us,” retired factory worker Shaul Marziano, 64, told the New York Times. Mohammed’s killers “should be treated just like Arab terrorists.”
After the kidnapping of Yifrach, Shaar and Fraenkel, Hamas head Khaled Mashaal told al-Jazeera TV that he did not know anything about their abduction. But if it turns out they were captured by Palestinians, he said, it would be “a logical and natural reaction to the violations of occupation forces.”
“We support every resistance attack against the Israeli occupation, which has to pay for its tyranny,” he said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnappings and killings.
On July 8, Hassan Abu Khdeir, a spokesperson for Mohammed’s family, welcomed hundreds of Jewish Israelis, organized by Tag Meir, the Interreligious Coordinating Council, at the mourning tent in Shuafat July 8.
“I congratulate them,” Muhammad Al-Julani, a Palestinian gas station attendant standing outside the tent, told the Times of Israel. “I appreciate their good will and support for peace. They oppose settlement activity and what’s happening now across the West Bank.”
But the family refused a visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres. “Whoever visits us must enter with dignity,” Sheikh Mahmoud Abu Khdeir told Haaretz. “And now it is not possible to come with dignity.”
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