The disappearance of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on 12 June understandably aroused great public anxiety and concern. I condemned this abduction and called for the urgent release of the three teenagers and their safe return to their families.
The finding on Monday of the bodies of the three missing youths has sadly ended all such hopes. I have issued a statement on behalf of the Government condemning the killings and extending our sympathies to the bereaved families. There is no excuse for such actions. I know Deputies will share those sentiments.
Israeli security forces launched extensive actions in Palestinian areas, seeking to locate the missing teenagers, but also striking at individuals or structures linked with Hamas, who they have claimed were responsible. In these operations, some hundreds of Palestinians have been detained, and perhaps as many as six have been killed. Some of those killed may have been engaged in protests, but none were alleged to be involved in the abductions.
Such heavy handed measures, whatever the reasoning behind them, run the risk of proving counterproductive. It should be noted that President Abbas and the Palestinian authorities clearly condemned the abductions, and have expressed their regret over the deaths of the youths. Palestinian security forces actively assisted in searching for them, and indeed it was Palestinian police who first raised the alarm over their disappearance. Such cooperation is difficult to sustain alongside widespread and excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces.
It is deeply saddening that this episode has ended in this way. I call on all authorities to act in a responsible way so that there is no further loss of life.