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Israelis mourns and light candles in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on June 30 after the announcement that the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers were found. / Oren Ziv, AFP/Getty Images

JERUSALEM - More than 50,000 mourners crowded the cemetery where three teenagers were buried Tuesday, in a day of national mourning for the teens who were abducted more than two weeks ago and killed.

As is the custom in Israel after tragedies like bus bombings, local radio stations played somber music throughout the day, and news commentators analyzed what Israel's next move will be in the war against terrorism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to punish Hamas for the murder of the teens, whose bodies were discovered Monday in the West Bank. Hamas denied responsibility for their deaths.

Early Tuesday the Israeli military said it struck 34 targets across the Hamas-controlled territory in Gaza. The military said the airstrikes were a direct response to a barrage of rockets that have been fired into Israel since late Sunday.

The bodies of Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who had dual Israeli-American citizenship, were buried side-by-side in the central Israeli town of Modiin. Theire bodies were draped with blue-and-white Israeli flags during the ceremony.

"Rest in peace my child," said Fraenkel's mother, Rachelle, "We will learn to sing without you. We will always hear your voice inside of us."

Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres also gave eulogies but did not talk about Hamas or retribution, at the request of the teens' families.

The young men's bodies were found Monday after intense searching since they were kidnapped June 12 while hitchhiking home from the Jewish seminaries where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron.

Authorities released a tape Tuesday of the call one of the teens placed to the Israeli police just moments after the abduction. The police dispatcher was unable to confirm the tape's veracity at the time and, therefore, waited hours before contacting the military, who launched a search.

On the tape the teen whispers, "I've been kidnapped," and a voice shouting, "Keep your head down." Police believe two muffled sounds were gunshots, and that the teens died within minutes of entering the kidnappers' car. The kidnappers subsequently burned the car.

Netanyahu convened his security Cabinet for a late-night meeting Tuesday to discuss a response to the killings, hours after airstrikes targeted dozens of suspected Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip.

Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu said Israel "will not rest" until it catches the killers. He also warned of stepped-up military activity in Hamas-controlled Gaza if rocket fire out of the territory continues.

"Hamas continues to support, even at this time, the kidnappings of our citizens and is directly responsible for firing rockets and mortars at our territory, including in recent hours," Netanyahu said in a statement aired on national TV. "If there is a need, we will broaden the campaign as much as needed."

During the period the young men were missing, they became in a sense everyone's children, said Danny Brom, director of the Israel center for the treatment of psychotrauma at Herzog hospital.

"We've seen enormous identification on the part of the public. Living in Israel means you are in a state of continuing fear and denial about your safety and that of your children. When something like this kidnapping happens, all the fears pop up," Brom says. "Suddenly everyone came together in fear," and until the discovery of the bodies, "also hope."

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon issued a statement promising to find those behind the killings. "We see Hamas responsible for the kidnappings and murders. We will continue to pursue the murderers of the teens and will not rest until we lay our hands on them," he said.

However, Hamas has denied responsibility and warned Israel against starting a broad offensive. "Netanyahu should know that threats don't scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Monday night.

Even before their deaths, the teens' plight gripped the nation.

While they were missing, schoolchildren and adults all around the country held rallies and said prayers for the teens and donated food to the soldiers searching for them. Many set three extra places at their dinner tables in honor of the boys while others ushered in the Sabbath with three extra Shabbat candles.

Posters stating "Bring Our Boys Home" and yellow ribbons still hung from many Israeli windows on Tuesday.

While some in Israel called for restraint from the Israeli military, others expressed the hope that the Israel Defense Forces will send ground troops into Gaza to root out terrorist cells.

"Israel needs to go into Gaza and get rid of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad once and for all," said Barbara Klein, on her way to do some errands in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "The people who kidnap teenagers are animals. They don't view life the way we view life, and it's time for the rest of the world to understand that this isn't just Israel's problem."

Contributing: The Associated Press



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Israel gripped by plight of murdered teens

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