When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped in the West Bank, were found late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mince words.
"Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay," he said, initiating a campaign that eventually escalated into the present conflict in the region.
But now, officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas's handiwork after all.
The kidnapping and subsequent killing of three Israeli settler teenagers last month is considered to be a flashpoint for the escalated violence in Gaza--that as of day 19 of the conflict has left 926 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.
At the time Israeli authorities placed the blame squarely on Hamas, with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu saying "They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals in human form. Hamas is responsible and Hamas will pay."
But, the Israeli Police Foreign Press Spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, rejected the Israeli government’s claim that Hamas was responsible for the killing of three Israeli settler teens in June, by saying that responsibility lies with a lone cell that operated without the complicity of Hamas’ leadership.
BuzzFeed reporter Sheera Frenkel was among the first to suggest that it was unlikely that Hamas was behind the deaths of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach. Citing Palestinian sources and experts the field, Frenkel reported that kidnapping three Israeli teens would be a foolish move for Hamas. International experts told her it was likely the work of a local group, acting without concern for the repercussions:
Repeated inconsistencies in Israeli descriptions of the situation have sparked debate over whether Israel wanted to provoke Hamas into a confrontation. Israeli intelligence is also said to have known that the boys were dead shortly after they disappeared, but to have maintained public optimism about their safe return to beef up support from the Jewish diaspora.