Carol Hills: I'm Carol Hills, in for Marco Werman, and this is The World. There is word now on the fate of three Israeli teenagers whose disappearance has become a national obsession. The Israeli military says the bodies of the three have been found in the West Bank.
We turn now to Sheera Frenkel. She's Middle East correspondent for Buzzfeed and she is in Jerusalem. Sheera, bring us up to date on what we know about this case so far.
Sheera Frenkel: So a few hours ago Israeli officials confirmed that the bodies of the three teenagers had been found. Those bodies had been buried in a field that were just a couple of miles away from where they were kidnapped. The IDF search for them had included the entire West Bank. There was even talk of them looking further afield. And the fact that they were found so close to where they were kidnapped, taken into a car just after 10:30 at night earlier this month, has led investigators to believe that it was, in fact, two wanted Palestinian men from the Hebron area who took them.
Hills: Where they were found is just outside the West Bank city of Hebron?
Frenkel: It is. It is. They were in an area called Gush Etzion, which is an Israeli settlement block, and they were leaving, heading back to their parents from the Yeshiva where they'd been studying that evening when they were kidnapped.
Hills: They were hitchhiking as I understand it.
Frenkel: They were. Hitchhiking is actually incredibly common in the West Bank. Itâ€™s part of what a lot of settlers consider their culture there. hey feel they can come and go on the roads between the various settlements and that they should be able to be safe doing so.
Hills: Now these three teenagers - Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach - they were hitchhiking home as you said. Tell us about this area where they were found near Hebron. What's that area like?
Frenkel: So I was actually there just earlier this week. It's a huge open field which I think at one point was cultivated for agriculture. At this point it's lying fallow. It's just north of Hebron and it's in an area where there's actually quite a few caves. Which, according to one of the Israeli officials I spoke to earlier tonight, was one of the reasons that they were quite difficult to find.
There's been mixed reports, but the running assumption now is that the people who did kidnap them probably shot them very close to the time of the kidnapping, buried their bodies, and then fled to one of the nearby caves. There's an untold number there. It's incredibly difficult terrain. Very, very easy to hid in.
And so Israeli officials are continuing their search, but there's a lot of questions going around over whether they'll actually be able to find the men who are behind this.
Hills: Now there are details coming out about this case and how it was investigated, and what might have actually happened at the time these teenagers were abducted. Can you tell us about that?
Frenkel: Yeah, there's a lot of accusations that this case was mishandled from the very beginning. Israeli police received a phone call from one of the teenagers saying I'm being taken and ignored it for quite some time. The police officer who happened to take the call was quite young, inexperience, but a lot of blame is being thrown their way. There's also reports that Israeli officials kept a lot under gag order, and that they had intelligence as long ago as a week ago, to say that these three teenagers were probably no longer alive. According to one of the Israeli officials involved in the investigation who spoke to me earlier today, they did find blood and other remains in a burnt out car nearby the site where they were kidnapped. And in the phone call that the teenager made to police there's a gunshot that can be heard at one point.
Hills: Now there was a huge search that went on for these three teenagers. You've reported that more than 240 Palestinians were arrested since the search began a few weeks ago. I know you've reached some Palestinians in Hebron. What's their reaction to this?
Frenkel: They're saying that hundreds of Israeli soldiers have actually flooded that area and closed off all of the main roads. We're also hearing that IDF soldiers are going house to house in the area around where two of the suspected men live. And at least two homes in the area have been demolished. One of the Palestinians I spoke to also said that a lot of youths have gathered in the area, that they had rocks, and that there's a lot of fear that there's is going to be clashes tonight between local Palestinians in Hebron and the IDF there.
Hills: We've been speaking to Sheera Frenkel, she's Middle East correspondent for Buzzfeed. She's in Jerusalem. Thank you so much Sheera.