JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces were conducting a large-scale search Friday for three teenagers who disappeared in the West Bank and were feared to have been abducted by Palestinian militants.
Families of the Israeli teenagers — one of whom is believed to hold American citizenship — lost contact with them Thursday evening in the southern West Bank area that Israel calls Gush Etzyon, officials and news reports said.
Two of them are students at a high school yeshiva in the area, and the third is a graduate of the same school, the media reports said. They were believed to have been hitch-hiking to their homes — a common practice among the area's settlers, despite repeated warnings — but never arrived.
Israeli security forces deployed in large numbers, setting up roadblocks and carrying out door-to-door searches through Palestinian villages and towns.
The search was assisted by a major intelligence effort, including tracking signals from cellular phones that could indicate the route taken by the boys, who are from 17 to 19 years old.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an urgent meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv with the ministers of defense and public security, as well as the army chief of staff and representatives of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the situation, according to the prime minister's office and news reports.