VATICAN CITY — Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi released a statement voicing Pope Francis' condolences over three kidnapped Israeli teenagers found dead on Monday outside a Palestinian town.
“The news of the death of three young Israelis that had disappeared is terrible and tragic,” the June 30 statement said.
“The murder of innocent people is always an abominable and unacceptable crime and an important obstacle in the way of peace, for which we must continue to work restlessly and for which we need to pray.”
It added, “Violence only begets more violence and feeds the deadly circle of hate.”
Three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, disappeared on June 12 while hitchhiking near the West Bank city of Hebron.
Their disappearance sparked one of Israel's biggest manhunts in recent years.
On Monday, Israeli security sources confirmed that the bodies of the three young men were found in shallow graves, covered by a few rocks not far from where they were last seen.
The Vatican statement noted that “Pope Francis unites to the indescribable pain of the families affected by this homicidal violence and to the pain of all persons affected by the consequences of hate and prays for God to inspire in all sentiments of compassion and peace.”
Since the search to find the three teenagers started, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian organization Hamas for their disappearance. Although Hamas has joined the coalition that rules the Palestinian territories, it is considered as a terrorist group by the U.S. government.
International observers fear that the murder of the three young students, one of whom was a U.S. citizen, will spark a new wave of violence between Israel and Hamas.
During his address to the cabinet after the bodies were found, Netanyahu said the youths had been “kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts,” and he said that “Satan has not yet invented vengeance for the blood of a small child. Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”
The leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the abductions and murders, but has requested the Israeli government to present proof that Hamas was involved in the crimes.