Netanyahu: Hamas Kidnapped Missing Teens

Sunday, 15 Jun 2014 08:46 AM

By Elliot Jager

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After an extraordinary government cabinet meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning, the Israel Defense Forces announced that it was ordering a partial call-up of reserves to help search for 3 teenagers who were kidnapped Thursday night.

The troops will augment units that have been shifted to Operation Return our Sons, the intensive search for the three Israeli high school students, Israel Radio reported.

One of the missing boys is believed to have dual Israeli and American citizenship.

Israeli authorities have placed the onus for the kidnapping on Hamas

"Those who carried out the abduction of our boys were members of Hamas," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "This will have severe consequences," he added.

The boys, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, were taken captive while hitchhiking in the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank just south of Jerusalem, The Times of Israel reported.

Hamas recently joined a Palestinian Authority unity government headed by Mahmoud Abbas. While Netanyahu did not mention the Obama administration by name, he did denounce "elements" in the "international community" that continued to back Abbas despite his coalition with Hamas.

Israeli security officials say that the Palestinian Authority is now cooperating in the search for the missing youths, according to Israel Radio.

By early Sunday morning, Israeli security forces in the West Bank had arrested 80 Palestinians — among them senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives.

Claims by several jihadi groups that they — and not Hamas — carried out the kidnappings have apparently been discounted by Israeli authorities. Israel is sealing off the West Bank from Jordan and from Gaza to ensure the boys are not moved out of the country, the Times reported.

Security in Judea and Samaria or the West Bank has steadily deteriorated. Under U.S. and European Union pressure all internal checkpoints in the territory have long been abandoned to ease Palestinian civilian life and to strengthen the political standing of Abbas.

Israeli analysts say that a series of prisoner releases has contributed to insecurity and strengthened radical Palestinian groups. In October 2011, Israel released 1,027 convicted prisoners in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit. More recently, over 100 convicts were set free to entice Abbas to the negotiating table.

A hunger strike by some of the 200 Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP]  prisoners being held under administrative detention has been the focus of recent West Bank demonstrations.

Israel Channel 2's Ehud Ya'ari reported that Hamas operations in the West Bank are now being coordinated from Istanbul, Turkey, by one of the prisoners released in the Shalit deal.

News of the kidnappings was welcomed by many Palestinians with some women handing out sweet pastries to celebrate.

Meanwhile, in protest to the kidnappings, Israeli settlements in the West Bank have told Palestinian employees not to report for work until further notice.

Special prayers were offered at synagogues throughout Israel on Saturday. There is mounting concern that the boys may already have been murdered.

Netanyahu has cancelled most of his scheduled Sunday appointments.

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