Palestinians Warn That Israeli Pressure on West Bank Could Backfire

Hamas spokesman says Israel will bear responsibility for any escalation against the Palestinians and its leadership in the West Bank.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Palestinians present ID cards at a West Bank roadblock, June 15, 2014.
Palestinians present ID cards at a West Bank roadblock, June 15, 2014.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Israel has arrested large numbers of Palestinians in its response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teens last Thursday night. The objective seems to be to extract any information that could lead to a solution of the kidnapping.

Palestinian sources warned that massive pressure on the population, including friction such as happened in the past two days, will lead to a reaction that will be translated into clashes inside neighborhoods and villages. This is what happened on Sunday throughout the day in villages in the Hebron area, and especially in Tapuah, Yatta and Dura. Residents of these areas said forces entered the villages from the early morning and conducted widespread searches and arrested a large number of people. Many of those arrested were released after being questioned locally, and some were transferred to Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet installations for further questioning.

Hamas continued to attack Israel for its actions, but did not take responsibility for the kidnapping – although most of the orgznization's spokesmen were not from the its senior ranks.

Many roads were blocked off in certain areas using concrete blocks, including roads leading to Hebron from nearby villages, according to Palestinian witnesses. Some residents said these actions have almost completely halted commerce in one of the West Bank’s major commercial centers. The common feeling among Palestinians in the area is that Israel is putting pressure on the local population, with many Palestinians viewing it as collective punishment.

In Tapuah, young men threw rocks at soldiers, who responded with tear gas and other riot control methods. Residents complained that soldiers took up positions on the roofs of a number of houses, or those that look out over a wide area.

The soldiers were conducting house-by-house searches, making arrests and using tear gas, said one resident. In Halhul, there were clashes and one resident was injured.

The arrests were part of a broader operation throughout the entire West Bank.

Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Sami Abu Zuhri, responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping. On a Facebook post, Zuhri said Israel woul bear responsibility for any escalation against the Palestinian people and its leadership in the West Bank.

The arrest of the organization's senior officials in the West Bank was a sign of hysteria and second thoughts in Israel, wrote Zuhri. He called on the international community "to intervene and stop these crimes."

Websites associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad also attacked the Palestinian Authority for its continued security cooperation with Israel, and for passing on information on Hamas activists, especially in the Hebron area.

The PA chose not to mention this, but instead attacked Netanyahu for what it called "a campaign of incitement" against the authority. Abbas continued his personal silence and his only public step was to convene a meeting of the PLO executive committee Sunday evening.

In an announcement released at the end of the meeting, the Palestinian leadership warned of the implications of the kidnapping and the "unrestrained racist campaign" led by Netanyahu against the Palestinian people and its leadership.

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