Israel launched 34 airstrikes over the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that “Hamas will pay” for the abduction and deaths of three Israeli teenagers.
Israeli officials said the airstrikes were in retaliation for 18 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, and targeted assets belonging to militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, CNN reports. The exchange of fire comes amid soaring tensions in the region, as Israeli officials held an emergency cabinet meeting to plan a response to the deaths of the teenagers.
Netanyahu said the teenagers were “abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals.” Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frankel, a 16-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, disappeared 19 days ago while hitchhiking in the southern West Bank. Their bodies were found Monday afternoon beneath a pile of rocks in an open field a short drive from where they were last seen.
“Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay,” Netanyahu said. Israeli troops have also raided the West Bank homes of two leading suspects in the case, Marwan Qawasmeh, 29, and Amar Abu-Isa, 32.
Hamas denied any involvement in the teenagers’ disappearance, but has endorsed abductions as a battle tactic against Israel and vowed to open “the gates of hell” should Israeli troops invade Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has called on the international community to restrain Israel’s response.
Further complicating events, a Palestinian news agency reports that a little-known group calling itself Ansar as-Dawla al-Islamiya (Supporters of the Islamic State) has claimed responsibility for the killings and vowed to “slaughter” Palestinian Authority officials, but those reports have not been independently verified, according to CNN.