WASHINGTON, June 15 (Xinhua) -- The United States "strongly" condemns the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers and calls for their immediate release, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. We hope for their quick and safe return home," Kerry said in a statement.
Three yeshiva students, two of them aged 16 and the other 19, who attended a religious high school in the West Bank, were kidnapped Thursday night by a terrorist organization when the students were returning to their homes for the weekend.
The United States continues to offer full support for Israel in its search for the missing teens, and has encouraged full cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian security services, Kerry added.
Israel has accused Islamic Hamas movement, which it labels as a terrorist group, of being behind the abduction of the three religious students. Such an accusation has further worsened its already fragile relations with the Palestinians after the collapse of the U.S-mediated peace talks in April.
"We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas' involvement," said Kerry.
The United States reiterates its position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and has used kidnapping in the past, the top U.S. diplomat added.