Kidnapping, in Real Time

Stand for Israel  |  August 29, 2019

Holding up an Israeli flag, tens of thousands attend the joint funeral of Naftali Frenkel (L), 16, Gilad Shaer (C), 16, and Eyal Ifrach (R), 19, in the central Israeli town of Modiin on July 1, 2014. The three had disappeared from a roadside in the southern West Bank on June 12, and on June 30 their bodies were found in a nearby field, with Israel blaming Hamas for their abduction and death and vowing to hunt down the killers. AFP PHOTO/GIL COHEN MAGEN (Photo credit should read GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Five years ago, three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel — were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists. This attack not only ultimately led to Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 conflict in Gaza, but to a lengthy search for the boys and those who took them. Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that the full details of the manhunt for the teens’ killers have finally been made public:

It was a national trauma. In June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were abducted after hitching a ride in the heart of Gush Etzion, and disappeared as if the earth had swallowed them up. For days, an entire country kept its fingers crossed that they would be found alive. Thousands of soldiers and civilians searched every inch of ground, and special units arrested any Hamas operative who might have been able to provide a clue to their whereabouts and help capture the kidnappers.

The searches continued for 18 days until the boys’ bodies were found, almost by chance, near the Palestinian town of Halhul. Thousands accompanied them as they were laid to rest, but the drama wasn’t over. For three months, the Shin Bet security agency, the IDF, and personnel from the Israel Police Counter Terror Unit continued to hunt the terrorists who had abducted and murdered the three teens. Meanwhile, Israel tumbled into Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza…

It happened on Thursday, June 12, 2014, at 10:22 p.m. The kidnappers, Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha arrived at the Gush Etzion junction in a stolen car that they had acquired ahead of time. They had been there the previous night, but hadn’t found a likely target. So they went home and tried again the next night.

The kidnappers spotted an Israeli teen looking for a ride at the hitchhiking post at the entrance to Alon Shvut. That was Eyal Yifrach, 19. The kidnappers stopped, told him they were going to Ashkelon and beckoned to him to hop in. Two other teens, Gil-ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, stepped out from the post and joined the ride. All three sat in the backseat.

Shaer and Fraenkel, who were classmates at Yeshivat Mekor Chaim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion, didn’t know Yifrach. Immediately after they got into the car, the terrorists turned around and pointed a gun at them. Shaer managed to call the police emergency line and whisper, “We’ve been kidnapped.”

The operators tried to understand what was going on, but they dropped the matter.

“They were sure someone was playing a prank,” says Israel Police Supt. Shai Cohen, head of the emergency dispatchers department at the National Police Headquarters and a member of the investigative committee that probed how the emergency operators responded to the call.

“They tried to contact the [Shaer’s] number, and when he didn’t answer, they assumed it had been a prank call because a large percentage of the calls directed to the Judea and Samaria emergency line are pranks,” Cohen explains.

Seconds after the kidnappers shot the boys, they turned the car around and drove back in the direction of the junction where they had originally picked them up. By the time an hour had passed, Shaer’s parents had begun to look for him after he neither arrived home nor answered his phone.

“We called everyone we could, but the boy had vanished,” says Shaer’s father, Ofir. Shaer’s parents reported him missing. Police went to Fraenkel’s house to see if the boys were there.

“We were woken up at 3:30 a.m. by [the police] knocking,” says Fraenkel’s father, Avi…

Stay informed about issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, receive daily devotionals, and more.