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Thousands mourn Israeli teens

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of murderers with cruelty who ended the lives of the youth. (Source: CBS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of murderers with cruelty who ended the lives of the youth. (Source: CBS)

MODIIN, ISRAEL (CBS) - Tens of thousands of mourners converged in central Israel on Tuesday for a funeral service for three teenagers found dead in the West Bank after a two week search and crackdown on the Hamas militant group, which Israeli leaders have accused of abducting and killing the young men.

Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, were buried side by side in the central Israeli town of Modiin.

Mourners arrived in large convoys of buses arranged for the ceremony.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were among the speakers to eulogize the youths, whose bodies were wrapped in blue and white Israeli flags and laid on stretchers.

"Naftali, Gilad, Eyal, many of us saw only small snapshots of your personalities, of who you were. From those snapshots a beautiful picture developed of confident young boys, sure of their way, in service of their people. Youngsters with radiant faces, who stood tall, with a thirst for knowledge and a knowledge of prayers," Peres said in his address.

Netanyahu spoke of the "murderers who with endless cruelty and without the blink of an eye, violated the ancient order not to raise a hand against a boy."

Hundreds of people also participated in separate memorial services in the hometowns of the three teens.

Israeli officials say the three were abducted while hitchhiking home from the Jewish seminaries where they were studying near the West Bank city of Hebron.

Their disappearances prompted the army to launch its largest ground operation in the West Bank in nearly a decade, dispatching thousands of troops to search for them and arresting nearly 400 Hamas operatives.

Hamas has praised the kidnappings, but neither confirmed nor denied Israeli allegations that it was involved.

More than 400 Palestinians have been arrested and at least six killed.

Israeli forces have dropped 34 bombs on targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire sent into Israel.

Copyright 2014 CBS. All rights reserved.

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