Palestinian moms, dads, grandparents, college students and children headed out over the weekend with sweets in hand to celebrate the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers.
One of the missing teenagers reportedly holds U.S. citizenship.
Reporters who cover Palestinian affairs linked to photos on Palestinian Facebook pages and websites documenting the festivities, while Israel Defense Forces troops were engaged in a massive manhunt to find Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, who disappeared on Thursday night heading home for the weekend from their boarding schools.
At Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, students affiliated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction of the PLO handed out sweets at the campus entrance to celebrate the kidnapping.
Bir Zeit University describes itself as an institution that “provides students with the opportunity to realize their academic aspirations and encourages them to be productive citizens and active members of their community.”
Hamas-affiliated media posted photos from Gaza where sweets including baklava were handed out.
One woman made a V sign for victory as she balanced a tray of pastries in her other hand.
The Palestinian affairs correspondent for Israel Radio tweeted more photos from the Gaza site:
Correspondent Gal Berger explained that the tent was set up as a mark of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for more than a month. Many of them are serving sentences in Israeli prisons for terrorism convictions.
As the kidnapped boys around their age were being searched for and prayed for in Israel, Palestinian girls in Gaza donned Hamas-style uniforms and headbands and toted toy wooden rifles to celebrate the occasion of the abduction.
“We are celebrating this formidable operation in Hebron,” said Misbach Abed Rabbo, a spokesman for prisoner families. “We have always called for the kidnapping of soldiers. We view this as the only just solution for freeing our sons from the occupation’s prisons.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night said there is “no doubt” the boys’ disappearance was an abduction.
“Our boys were kidnapped by a terrorist organization. There is no doubt about that,” Netanyahu said.
In what appeared to be veiled criticism of countries that quickly recognized the new Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government, Netanyahu said that those who said it would move forward peace should now look at the “results” of the Fatah-Hamas marriage. Within hours of the formation of the unity government, the Obama administration announced it would continue to work with and fund the Palestinian Authority, evoking criticism not only from Israel but from members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.
Israeli media reported that 16-year-old Frenkel is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and that the U.S. embassy had been notified of his disappearance, prompting a Wall Street Journal columnist to ask if First Lady Michelle Obama planned to hold up a sign #bringbackourboys, echoing her call for the release of Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamist militants.
Israeli troops arrested dozens of Hamas activists overnight, including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Hamas criticized Abbas for cooperating with Israel in the search for the boys.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avignor Liberman Sunday morning vowed there would be no more prisoner releases.
“There will be no releases for those Palestinian terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons – not as a ‘gesture’ and not for any other reason,” Liberman told Army Radio.
Former Israel Security Services chief Yuval Diskin said releasing terrorists as a peace talks gesture only encourages abductions.
“We should stop releasing terrorists for kidnapped soldiers, or releasing terrorists instead of implementing a construction freeze during peace talks with the Palestinians – it encourages more kidnappings,” Diskin wrote on Facebook.
Israel released 78 Palestinian prisoners in recent months, ceding to a request from Secretary of State John Kerry to encourage the Palestinian side to restart negotiations.