Netanyahu: Israel Operating Against Hamas to Bring Home Kidnapped Teens

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, June 15, 2014.Credit: AP

The search operation for the three teenagers who were kidnapped last week at the Gush Etzion junction is a complex one that could take time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday evening, as he offered words of encouragement to the boys’ families.

“We are focusing on returning the boys who were kidnapped and we are operating against Hamas. We have arrested more than 100 Hamas operatives and are doing other things I cannot elaborate on,” Netanyahu said.

Addressing the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah, Netanyahu said, “I’ve spoken with people who have visited you and I was impressed from the conversations I had with you by your strength during these moments of anguish. I and all Israeli citizens support you and are making every effort to bring the boys home.”

He also urged foreign leaders to speak out against the abduction. “I call on those in the international community that condemn us for building in Jerusalem to clearly condemn this kidnapping,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the kidnapping Monday, four days after it occurred, as part of a statement calling on “both sides to avoid violence.”

The statement, published by Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, said, “The [Palestinian] Authority condemns the chain of events that took place last week, starting with the kidnapping and ending with the Israeli violations that took place afterward, whether involving the prisoners’ [hunger] strike, the breaking into Palestinian homes and attacks by settlers and the occupation army that led to the death of a Palestinian youth and the pursuit of innocent people.”

Abbas issued the statement after calling Netanyahu and speaking to him for the first time in over a year. During their conversation, Netanyahu said, “I expect you to assist in returning the kidnapped teens and in capturing the kidnappers. The Hamas kidnappers came from an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority and returned to areas under PA control.”

Justice Ministry officials are continuing to examine the legality of various options for punishing Hamas, whether by expelling senior Hamas officials to Gaza, demolishing their homes, or taking action against Hamas inmates in Israeli prisons. The options were discussed at a security cabinet meeting Monday afternoon, but no decisions were made.

The Israel Defense Forces continued to arrest Hamas leaders and operatives throughout Sunday night and Monday morning. Among those taken into custody were Palestinian Parliament speaker Aziz Dweik and two other Hamas parliamentarians. Dweik was taken on Monday to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center for a medical examination after he complained of feeling unwell. After being checked by doctors he was returned to Shin Bet security service custody.

Early Monday morning, the Israel Air Force attacked five targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the firing of Grad rockets at Ashkelon on Sunday night. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported four people lightly to moderately wounded, including a three-year-old boy.

In his evening statement, Netanyahu also addressed the rocket fire from Gaza, saying, “In recent days we are witnessing an attempt to open a front in Gaza; we responded forcefully to this fire, and will respond even more forcefully if necessary. I promise that whoever tries to harm Israeli citizens will be harmed.”

A 23-year-old man, Ahmed Asabrin, was shot to death by IDF soldiers at the Jelazone refugee camp near Ramallah after he had thrown a large cinder block at soldiers conducting searches at the site. The searches turned up a pistol and two magazines in the home of a man who was arrested. Two other Palestinians and three soldiers were hurt in confrontations at the camp.

Soldiers shot rubber bullets at Palestinians who threw rocks them at a Hebron checkpoint. 

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