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Better add Israel and Gaza to your list of Middle East hot spots

Missing Israeli teenagers apparently found dead; get ready for more Middle East strife
Bitter recipe: Netanyahu says 'Hamas will pay' for teens' deaths; Hamas warns of opening 'gates of hell'

Worried about Iraq, Syria and the threat from ISIS? Well, better add this to your list then: a new Israeli-Palestinian confrontation.

On Monday, civilian searchers found what are believed to be the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who disappeared June 12 in the West Bank.

As The Times reported Monday:

“Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, disappeared June 12 while hitching home from the West Bank school they attended.

“Israeli officials believe they were abducted by members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Hamas officials praised the kidnapping but have not claimed responsibility for it.”

In a part of the world where it doesn’t take much to spark conflict, this seems all but certain to escalate. Already, five Palestinians have died in violence related to the search for the missing boys. And then there’s this:

“As news spread of the recovery of the bodies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a  meeting of his Security Cabinet on Monday night. The Israeli Knesset adjourned its discussions and canceled scheduled votes.

Netanyahu said starkly: “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”

His statement was echoed by Danny Danon, deputy defense minister and a right-wing member of the Israeli government, as reported by the New York Times: “We must ensure that this tragic end be turned into an opportunity to create a better and safer Israel. Israelis have the willingness and the fortitude necessary to endure the hardships of a long-lasting operation aimed at eradicating Hamas.”

Of course, Hamas wasn’t backing down: “If the occupiers carry out an escalation or a war, they will open the gates of hell on themselves,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

So, add it all up and what have you got? Yep, a recipe for more fighting: another Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, probably, and perhaps the West Bank as well. Not to mention another setback for any hopes for a settlement of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With the civil war in Syria, which has spread to Iraq and Lebanon and even Turkey, the Middle East has its plate full right now when it comes to armed conflict. And the U.S. certainly doesn’t need another complication in the region.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry tried, and failed, recently to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Some suggested that he was foolish to even have bothered.

But at times like these, it’s obvious why such an accord is so badly needed.

Follow Paul Whitefield on Twitter @PaulWhitefield1

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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