Israeli officials have confirmed that the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped in the West Bank in June have been discovered.
The bodies were found buried in a shallow grave under rocks in the city of Halhul at 5p.m. on Monday.
“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Guardian reports that although no immediate confirmation was made of the three bodies’ identities, their location, close to the one where the three boys went missing, “pointed inescapably to it being the remains of the three teenagers.”
Netanyahu went on to apologize to the families of the three boys – Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Natfali Frankel, 16 – on behalf “of the entire Jewish people.”
The three boys were abducted while hitchhiking home from their religious schools on June 12, after which a series of searches and raids called “Brother’s Keeper” began in an attempt to bring them home.
At the beginning of an emergency cabinet meeting, the prime minister went on to say that “the entire nation weeps with you. We will give the boys a proper burial.”
According to a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces, the bodies are currently undergoing forensic identification. The families of the teens have been notified.
Israel has accused the Palestinian militant group Hamas of taking the boys.
Although Hamas has denied kidnapping the teens, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials agree that the kidnappers were likely affiliated with Hamas, but operating without orders from the organization’s leaders.
Netanyahu made his belief in Hamas’ involvement readily apparent in his cabinet speech, saying, “Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay.”
Israeli forces had been conducting raids in the West Bank since the teens’ disappearance.
More than 240 Palestinians have been arrested throughout the operation.
As FBI Director James Comey said, the FBI had become involved in the investigation directly after the teens went missing because one of the teens – Natfali Frenkel – had dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.
Reports indicate that Israeli soldiers have already been deployed in Hebron.