Cabinet Moves to Worsen Hamas Prisoners' Conditions

Military pressure on Palestinian movement will be increased, ministers decide, as search for three kidnapped Israeli teens enters fifth day. Netanyahu meets Tony Blair in Tel Aviv.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Israeli soldiers walk in a single file on a path during an operation in the West Bank town of Hebron on June 17, 2014.
Israeli soldiers walk in a single file on a path during an operation in the West Bank town of Hebron on June 17, 2014.Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Israeli ministers decided to increase the military pressure on Hamas and to worsen the conditions of Hamas members held in Israeli prisons, at the end of a three-hour security cabinet meeting on Tuesday discussing the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and the military operation that has since been launched against Hamas in the West Bank.

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the mission of utmost importance right now was to return the abducted and to increase the pressure on Hamas. "The public security minister was authorized to worsen the conditions of Hamas members held in Israeli prisons," the senior official said. "An additional cabinet meeting will be held in coming days to discuss further steps against Hamas."

Click here for Tuesday's updates on the kidnapping

The senior official noted that alongside military pressure on Hamas, expressed, for instance, by stepping up the arrests of movement members and thereby hampering Hamas' civilian infrastructure, Israel will also make a diplomatic effort to delegitimize the alliance between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. According to him, Israel will stress the need to put an end to incitement against Israel on official Palestinian media and in the Authority's education system, where support for the abduction of Israelis is voiced.

"We consider the Palestinian Authority as responsible for any terrorist attack originating in its territory," the senior official said. "We're preparing for a long-term operation and patience is required. The prime minister will continue to consult with the security establishment all day."

Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Mideast Quartet representative Tony Blair in Tel Aviv. At the beginning of the meeting, Netanyahu said that the kidnapping of the three teens "exposes the real face of Hamas. It is not only committed to murdering Israelis, it is committed to kidnapping children as well."

Blair said at the meeting that he is shocked at the kidnapping and offered his sympathies to the families of the teens. Hamas, he said, "faced one option: They cannot choose the political path on one hand and violence on the other, and he only way for this to work is if all violence stops – the terrorism, the kidnappings and murder."

Netanyahu urged the international community to condemn Hamas for its terrorist actions, "to support Israel's right to self-defense and also to call on President Abbas to end his alliance with Hamas."

Overnight Monday, the Israeli army conducted a large-scale operation in the West Bank, arresting 41 Palestinians. Approximately half of the arrests were conducted in the Nablus region, 78 kilometers north of Hebron, where the operation has been focused until now.

Meanwhile, the Israel Air Force struck four sites throughout the Gaza Strip in response to rocketfire. There were no reports of casualties.

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