Israel accuses Hamas Islamists of kidnapping the seminary
students, who disappeared on Thursday while hitchhiking from a
Jewish settlement. There has been no word from them since, nor any
public claim of responsibility or ransom demands - including by
Hamas, though neither has it denied involvement.
A military spokesman said more than 65 Palestinians were detained
overnight, including 51 who were part of a group of 1,027 prisoners
released by Israel three years ago in return for soldier Gilad
Shalit, who was seized by Hamas in 2006.
"We have two efforts ongoing in parallel. First is to bring back the
boys, and the second is to take a toll on Hamas for its actions,"
spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said.
Palestinians said the majority of those re-arrested were affiliated
with Hamas, and accused Israel of reneging on the prisoner-swap
deal, which was partially brokered by Egypt.
"What Israel is doing has nothing to do with security, but is a
policy of revenge," said Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian
Prisoners Club, which advocates on behalf of Palestinians in Israeli
An Egyptian official said that Cairo, which is in contact with Hamas
and other Palestinian factions, was helping Israel gather
information that might lead to the missing teenagers. But he denied
Israeli and Palestinian media reports that Egyptian mediation was
already under way.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose unity deal with Hamas in
April led Israel to suspend peace talks with him, said those
responsible for the kidnapping had only brought an Israeli military
crackdown upon Palestinians in the West Bank.
"Regardless of the party that did this, we will have to say that to
them, because we can't tolerate such operations," Abbas said at a
summit of the Islamic Conference Organisation, in Jeddah.
"We are coordinating with (Israel) in order to return those youths
because they are human beings and we want to protect the lives of
human beings," said Abbas, who held a rare telephone conversation
with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
[to top of second column]
Israel wants to make clear to Hamas it will pay a high price for the
abduction. Netanyahu was swift to praise the latest arrests, which
brought the total number of those detained to 240.
"The operation tonight in which Hamas terrorists were arrested,
including some who had been freed in exchange for the return of
Gilad Shalit, is a component with an important message in a series
of many actions," he said in a statement.
Since the disappearance of Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national
Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, Israeli raids
have spread from house-to-house searches in Hebron, a Hamas
stronghold, to Palestinian towns and cities across the West Bank.
Lerner said the army had raided institutions that provide civilian
support for Hamas, including the group's Al-Aqsa radio station. He
said computers and documents were seized.
"It's a multi-dimensional operation, both overt and covert and
indeed, it is going to strike a substantial blow to Hamas, its
infrastructure, its institutions, its lifeline and everything that
keeps it going," he said.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Dan Williams; Editing by
Crispian Balmer and Louise Ireland)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.