JERUSALEM -- Israeli jets pounded dozens of targets across Hamas-controlled territory in Gaza Tuesday, a day that turned into a day of mourning in the Jewish state over the murders of three Israeli teenagers abducted June 12.
The air strikes followed vows by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to punish Hamas for the murder of the teens, whose bodies were discovered Monday in the West Bank. Hamas denied responsibility for their deaths.
As is the custom in Israel after tragedies like bus bombings, local radio stations played somber music throughout the day, and news commentators analyzed what Israel's next move will be in the war against terrorism.
During the period the boys were missing they became in a sense everyone's children, says Danny Brom, director of the Israel center for the treatment of psychotrauma at Herzog hospital.
"We've seen enormous identification on the part of the public. Living in Israel means you are in a state of continuing fear and denial about your safety and that of your children. When something like this kidnapping happens, all the fears pop up," says Brom. "Suddenly everyone came together in fear," and until the discovery of the bodies, "also hope."
The bodies of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were found Monday after 18 days of intense searching. They disappeared while hitchhiking home from the Jewish seminaries where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron.
On Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas, saying: "Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay." Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon issued a statement on Tuesday vowing to find those behind the killings. "We see Hamas responsible for the kidnappings and murders. We will continue to pursue the murderers of the teens and will not rest until we lay our hands on them," he said.
However, Hamas has denied responsibility and warned Israel against starting a broad offensive. "Netanyahu should know that threats don't scare Hamas, and if he wages a war on Gaza, the gates of hell will open on him," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Still, early Tuesday the Israeli military said it struck 34 targets across the Hamas-controlled territory in Gaza. The military said the airstrikes were a direct response to a barrage of rockets that have been fired into Israel since late Sunday.
Even before their deaths, the teens' plight gripped the nation.
While they were missing schoolchildren and adults all around the country held rallies and said prayers for the teens and donated food to the soldiers searching for them. Many set three extra places at their dinner tables in honor of the boys while others ushered in the Sabbath with three extra Shabbat candles.
Posters stating "Bring Our Boys Home" and yellow ribbons still hung from many Israeli windows on Tuesday.
While some in Israel called for restraint from the Israeli military, others expressed the hope that the Israel Defense Forces will send ground troops into Gaza to root out terrorist cells.
"Israel needs to go into Gaza and get rid of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad once and for all," said Barbara Klein, on her way to do some errands in Jerusalem Tuesday. "The people who kidnap teenagers are animals. They don't view life the way we view life, and it's time for the rest of the world to understand that this isn't just Israel's problem."
But an an Arab Israeli who identified himself only as Nimar cautioned that Israel should first capture the kidnappers and determine the circumstances before waging an all-out war on Hamas.
"If it proves that Hamas gave the orders, then the IDF should take out Hamas' infrastructure. But Israel also has to remember that with every operation, innocent Palestinian civilians will be caught in the crossfire," he said.
The Israeli teens will be buried later Tuesday in a joint funeral to be attended by Netanyahu and Shimon Peres, Israel's president.