On Saturday, the European Union again voiced its regret for the kidnappings of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, but in the same statement urged Israel to exercise restraint in its search for the missing boys.
“The EU reiterates its condemnation of the recent abduction of three Israeli students in the West Bank and calls once again for their immediate release and safe return to their families,” the EU statement read. “Such acts can only undermine international efforts to encourage a resumption of peace negotiations.”
However, “it regrets the violence which has erupted in the West Bank as a result of the abduction, in particular the killing of several Palestinians, and calls on Israel to use proportionate means only to bring about the return of the abductees.”
Since the boys were abducted on June 12 on their way home from school, some 400 Hamas operatives and other suspects have been arrested in the far reaching Operation Brothers Keeper. The IDF’s primary suspects, Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, both of Hebron, are still at large. Hundreds of troops have been deployed in Judea and Samaria in search of the three students, and four Palestinians have been killed in skirmishes with the IDF during the course of the mission.
EU condemnation was not one-sided, however, as it also criticized recent rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. “We also condemn recent indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza. We call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any further escalation which will worsen the situation.”
The EU statement also held words of praise for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for “his unequivocal condemnation of the abduction,” and welcomed “the cooperation of the Palestinian security services in the search for the abductees.”
It added: “Statements made by some Hamas leaders that glorify the perpetrators of the abduction are unacceptable.”
The same day, UN Human Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville expressed a similar sentiment to the EU. “Clearly these boys need to be found, that’s totally understandable, but the scale of operations and the number of people they are affecting is deeply disturbing,” said Colville.
“We reiterate our call for strict adherence to international law by all relevant actors and join others in their call for restraint,” he told reporters.
The mothers of the three missing teenagers had traveled to Geneva last week to meet with deputy UN human rights chief Flavia Pansieri.
“As a mother herself, she expressed her understanding of their deep anxiety about the fate of their sons. We are concerned that the three teenagers have still not been located, after being missing for 15 days. We hope for their immediate safe return,” said Colville.
Kidnapped Teens’ Parents Visit Site of Their Abduction
However, “Our heartfelt sympathy also goes out to the mothers and loved ones of the six Palestinians, including two teenagers, who have been killed by Israeli forces, in addition to the many others who have been injured, during these past two weeks,” he added.
“We call for prompt and thorough investigations, and prosecution of the perpetrators in cases where there has been excessive use of force,” he said.
“We are also concerned about reports of damage to property and theft during these operations, especially house-to-house searches, and their traumatic effect on children and families,” he added.
Israel will not back down, however. “Our supreme mission is to bring the boys home. We are using every means to this end and all operations are for this goal,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the boys’ parents in separate meetings on Friday. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon reiterated the army’s working assumption that the boys are still alive. Unfortunately, there have been no new leads in the case.