Teenage hitchhikers still alive, says Israel, as hunt goes on for kidnappers


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The Independent Online

Three teenagers who disappeared in the West Bank while reportedly hitchhiking are believed to be alive, Israel's Defence minister said yesterday.

Security forces have been searching the West Bank since the students at a Jewish seminary, including an American, went missing on Thursday night, amid suspicions that they were kidnapped by Palestinian militants. Two of the missing are 16; the third is aged 19.

Moshe Ya'alon said yesterday that searches were continuing and that troops had made some arrests. "I hope these efforts will lead us as quickly as possible to the missing in order to rescue them," Mr Ya'alon said. "As long as we don't know otherwise, our working assumption is they're alive."

Earlier on Saturday, a senior Israeli military official said Israel was working with the Palestinian Authority. Details remain scarce of the teens' disappearance. Local media reported that they were hitchhiking home to their settlements in the West Bank.