Three teenagers kidnapped in the West Bank and murdered were buried side by side Tuesday against a backdrop of tears, vows of revenge, and fears of a bloody crackdown.
"Israel will act with a heavy hand until terror is uprooted,'' Israeli President Shimon Peres said at the ceremony for Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who was born in Israel but had American citizenship and family in New York.
The three yeshiva students vanished while hitchhiking June 12. After a massive manhunt, voluneer searchers found their bodies in a shallow grave outside Hebron on Tuesday evening.
As thousands converged on the town of Modiin to show support, the youths' families bared raw grief.
"Gilad, you are the son I always prayed for," Ophir Shaar said at the wake, choking on his words and weeping. "I'm sitting in your room and writing this, looking at our albums. What a brave person you are. My dear Gilad I miss you, I believe that generations to come will grow up in your light."
Israel blames Hamas for the killings, despite no claim of responsibility. "These are murderers without limits," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the funeral.
Israel hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip with airstrikes overnight and said that militants fired 10 rockets on Tuesday.
In Halhul, close to where the bodies were discovered, farmer Mohammad Jamaa’ri, 47, said Israel soldiers had waged an indiscriminate crackdown.
“Around 6 o’clock around 100 soldiers came to my mother’s house, I asked what’s going on, they said they want to go inside. The door was open, but they still broke the door, they broke the windows and they broke everything inside the house and they tuned the house upside down," he said.
"They threw food out from jars and bags just to cause damage. My mom couldn’t bear what’s happening around her and she felt bad because she had heart problems. I started screaming because the color on my mother’s face changed and she looked pale.
"My two daughters were standing next to me shaking and crying. I called my brother to bring an ambulance for my mother. The soldiers at the entrance to the village didn’t allow the ambulance to go in."
His mother, Safeyeh Abu Dayeh, 68, said her family knew nothing about the kidnappings but was persecuted anyway.
“They entered my house like beasts," she said. "They saw my husband was paralyzed, that he is old and sick, yet they humiliated my husband by telling him he is liar and asking him who was coming here.
"They took my phone from me, and when I asked why they took my phone — because this is the only way for me to communicate with my sons — they said, 'Shut up.' They terrorized us."
Israeli authorities have identified two Palestinians alleged to be Hamas "operatives" — Marwan Kawasma and Amer Abu Eisheh — as the kidnappers.
Abu Eisheh's mother, Nadia, said soldiers wrecked her house in Hebron.
"What evidence do they have against my son? Let them bring the evidence to me," she said. "Why are they doing what they are doing before showing any evidence?"
The suspect's uncle, Hamad Abu Eisheh, 52, said the kidnappings were a pretext for Israel to clamp down and divide the Palestinian unity government. He noted that a Palestinian teen was killed during the hunt for the Israelis.
"Is Palestinian blood cheap while the blood of Israelis expensive?" he asked.
The Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement that its "Brother's Keeper" operation launched after the abductions would continue.
Security forces searched more than 2,000 structures and detained 419 "terror operatives" and a dozen Hamas leaders, IDF said in a statement. It also carried out operations against what it called "Dawa targets," described as institutions that operate "on behalf of the Hamas terror organization under the guise of a civilian lifeline in order to increase the organization's support and spread its propaganda."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.