A young Jewish settler rides a bicycle in front of the West Bank settlement of Susiya. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Johannesburg - The kidnapping of three teenage boys in Israel, reportedly by Hamas, was a barbaric and savage act, the SA Zionist Federation said on Tuesday.

“Five days ago these three innocent young boys were hitchhiking in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank when they disappeared without a trace,” chairman Avrom Krengel said in a statement.

“It is impossible to describe the anguish and torment their families are experiencing as they wait for news; and we pay tribute to the citizens of Israel who have rallied round to give support to the parents.”

On Monday, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas over the phone he expected his help in ensuring the return of the three teenagers.

It was their first direct political contact since 2012, as Israel conducted a vast search operation in the West Bank to find the three youths.

Netanyahu said last week they were kidnapped by militants from the Hamas movement, AFP reported.

Since Friday, Israel has arrested more than 150 Palestinians, most of them Hamas members.

AFP reported thus far, there had been no formal claim of responsibility, with Hamas dismissing Israel's accusations as “stupid”.

Krengel said the kidnapping was another indication that Hamas would go to any length to obliterate any chance of peace in the region.

“On behalf of the SA Zionist Federation and the Jewish community of South Africa, we pray with the families of the boys for their safe return,” he said.