Israel on Monday held Palestinian Islamist militant group of Hamas responsible for the killing of three missing Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found in the West Bank Monday evening and drew worldwide condemnation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the teenagers' killings, Xinhua reported citing a government statement. He said the teenagers were "kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals".
"Our hearts bleed, the entire nation is crying with them," Netanyahu added.
Following the bodies' discovery by Israeli security forces, Netanyahu presided over a cabinet meet convened to discuss the recent developments and the possible courses of action late Monday.
"Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay," he said in a statement to the press at the beginning of the urgent meet of his diplomatic-security cabinet.
Eyal Yifrach,19, Naftali Frankel,16, and Gilad Shaer,16, went missing June 12. Their bodies were discovered near Hebron city in the West Bank's Judean Hills, The Jerusalem Post reported.
They were found in an area in the West Bank controlled by Palestinian Authority, Israel's military confirmed. The area, where the bodies were found, is not far from where they were considered to be kidnapped.
The country's political class echoed Netanyahu and called for harsh crackdown on Hamas.
President Shimon Peres said: "As we learn the bitter news, the people of Israel grieve the untimely death of our fine young men. With deep sorrow, we remain determined to fiercely punish the criminal terrorist."
Speaker of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) Yuli Edelstein said that "Israel must open a definitive war on Hamas. It is time that the Palestinians will realize that Hamas is leading them to destruction."
Meanwhile, Hamas, which has strongly denied any involvement in the abductions, has warned that any retaliatory attack by Israel will open "the gates of hell".
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told Palestinian Al-Aqsa TV that Israel is using the deaths of the teenagers to "escalate the situation against our people and our resistance, and Hamas in particular," BBC reported.
Although there was no immediate official word as to how the teenagers died, the New York Times cited government sources as saying that they appeared to have been shot.
Israeli security forces had conducted a manhunt in the West Bank territories in the past two weeks dubbed as operation "Brother's Keeper" to track down the missing teens and their suspected kidnappers.
Meanwhile, the teenagers' killings were condemned by the UN, the US, Britain, Australia, and France among others.