Obama condemns 'senseless act of terror against innocent' Israeli youths

State Department urges restraint on both sides; House Foreign Relations C'tee chair says US should be under no illusion that unity gov't wants peace.

US President Barack Obama (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Barack Obama
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK -- The United States issued a measured response to the murder of three Israeli teenage boys on Monday, more than two weeks after the students first gripped the heart of the Jewish nation, and hours after Israel Defense Forces found the missing - Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gil-Ad Shaer - dead in an open field.
In a statement issued to the press, US President Barack Obama balanced a message of empathy as a father with a call for restraint from a leader familiar with spiraling conflicts in the Middle East.
"On behalf of the American people I extend my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel – who held Israeli and American citizenship," Obama said in a statement Monday. "As a father, I cannot imagine the indescribable pain that the parents of these teenage boys are experiencing," he added. 
Obama called for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue cooperation between security forces to find the perpetrators of the act and bring them to justice. 
He also urged all parties to exercise restraint to prevent further destabilizing the situation. 
"As the Israeli people deal with this tragedy, they have the full support and friendship of the United States," he stated. 
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki walked a fine line briefing reporters this afternoon in Washington on the development, urging restraint to the government in Jerusalem enraged by the finding, and to Palestinian authorities braced for retribution for the killing.
"The kidnapping and, of course, any harm that has been done to these teenagers is a tragedy," she said, adding for confirmation: "I would point you to the government of Israel."
US law requires the government inform next of kin of death, should an American citizen be killed. Indeed, one of the boys, Fraenkel, held US citizenship.
Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee Ed Royce (R-CA) said that the perpetrators must be "held accountable" for the act.
"The brutal murder of these boys should leave the Administration with no illusion that a Hamas-backed Palestinian government will be a partner for peace.  With these killings, the genocidal intent of Hamas has been laid bare yet again.”
The boys went missing 18 days ago, prompting fury from the Israeli population and its government, and condemnation from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - but near silence from Hamas, a terrorist organization taking part in the Palestinian government.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has publicly accused Hamas of culpability. And while the US government would not confirm their involvement, the State Department has said the kidnapping was a hallmark Hamas tactic.
"Every parent's greatest fear is harm coming to his or her child, and so I can't imagine what the parents of Gil-ad, Naftali, and Eyal are experiencing on this sad day," ranking member of the committee Eliot Engel (D-NY) said. "I hope whoever is responsible for this evil is brought swiftly to justice."