June 12, 2014
Three Israelis ages 16 to 19 are abducted while hitchhiking near the Alon Shvut settlement in the West Bank. The young men realize they are in trouble after they accept a ride from two men, and one of the teens calls the police and whispers that he has been kidnapped. The two attackers, believed to be Hamas members Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, hear the call and shoot the hostages; the recording of the call includes automatic weapons fire.
The bodies of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar are found 18 days later, buried under rocks in a field about 15 miles from the site of their abduction.
The abduction increases the already high tensions between Israel and both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority after an American-led peace initiative collapsed in April. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames Hamas for the teens’ disappearance and deaths. During the hunt for the missing teens, dubbed Operation Brother’s Keeper, the Israeli military searches thousands of homes in the West Bank and arrests 400 Palestinians. Israeli vigilantes also carry out revenge attacks on Palestinians.
In response to the Israeli military activity, Hamas fires rockets into Israel from Gaza, and Israel retaliates with airstrikes on Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip. The back-and-forth violence leads to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which begins July 8 and lasts 50 days. The operation escalates from airstrikes to an Israeli ground offensive. The fighting kills more than 2,000 Palestinians, 72 Israelis and one Thai worker in Israel.