Tel Aviv: Israel`s security forces continued a massive manhunt for three Jewish teens who went missing from the West Bank Thursday night, a media report said Saturday.
Fears have been raised that the three teens were kidnapped by Palestinian militants seeking the release of comrades incarcerated in Israeli prisons, Xinhua reported.
Military and police units, along with security services and special forces have been deployed in and around the city of Hebron in an effort to locate the trio, aged 16 to 19, since their disappearance from a hitchhiking spot.
Surveillance drones and military helicopters were also assisting ground forces in the searche, and several Palestinian suspects were reportedly in the vicinity of the southern Hebron Hills.
Earlier Friday, the police and military set up a joint command to coordinate the search.
Roadblocks were placed along main arteries and back roads leading to Israel`s borders with Egypt and the Gaza Strip for fear that the alleged captors would attempt to move the Israelis out of the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority`s security forces also assisted their Israeli counterparts in the searche, according to reports.
Rumours circulated on social media Friday that the teens were freed in a military operation in a Palestinian village in which five militants were killed and two others were wounded.
The Army dismissed the reports as "baseless."
Witnesses said that the three youths, who attended a religious high school in the West Bank, were returning to their homes for the weekend. They had boarded a vehicle at a stop in Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, at about 10.30 p.m Thursday night, where they were last seen.
"One of the men telephoned the police emergency line and spoke with an operator. The call was abruptly cut. That`s why we believe there is a strong possibility that they were taken against their will," a police spokesman said.
The three men`s identities has not been disclosed.
One of them reportedly holds American citizenship.