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Bishop condemns kidnappings, asks Israel to keep response proportionate
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — The chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate asked anyone with information about the kidnapping of three Israeli teens to come forward and help return the youths to their families. At the same time, he called on the Israeli army to keep its reaction and its search methods proportionate.

"Kidnapping three Israeli young people is not fair, and is against human rights and human dignity. We are opposed to this; this is not the right way to make peace," Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali told Catholic News Service June 25. "(But) the reaction of the Israeli army is disproportionate to what happened."

He said Israeli army forces had arrested some 600 Palestinians in their search for the youth; others have estimated 400 were arrested.

"This is more than 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,'" he said.

The three teens were kidnapped in mid-June as they were hitchhiking home from their school in Gush Etzion, a cluster of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. Israeli officials have accused Hamas, which recently formed a coalition government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of being responsible for the abduction.

Abbas condemned the kidnapping, and Palestinian security forces are coordinating with the Israelis to find the kidnappers. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal denied his group was involved, but commended whoever carried out the kidnapping.

Father Raed Abusahlia, parish priest at Holy Family Parish in Ramallah, condemned the kidnapping but also criticized the methods Israel was using to try to find the perpetrators. He noted that Israel was acting in Area A of the West Bank which, according to the Oslo accords, is supposed to be under full Palestinian civil and security control.

"We condemn kidnapping any children, whether they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim, Palestinian or Israeli," he told Catholic News Service in late June, two days after Israeli soldiers conducted a nighttime raid in his city. "People are not afraid, but they are concerned; if, during the night, they hear shooting, it brings back memories of the 2002 invasion of Ramallah. This whole situation is affecting everybody."

Two Palestinians -- one in Nablus and another in Ramallah -- were killed, apparently by Palestinian police when their station came under attack by Palestinians throwing stones, angry at police cooperation with the Israeli army.

The mothers of the three youths, one of whom holds U.S. citizenship, appealed to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva for the safe release of their sons.

A March 2013 UNICEF report estimated that some 700 Palestinian children, mostly boys ages 12-17, are detained by the Israeli Defense Forces every year in the West Bank and are subject to widespread, systematic ill treatment that violates international law. Statistics from Defence for Children International shows that as of April, 196 Palestinian children were being held in Israel detention; 27 were ages 12-15.

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