Israeli soldiers patrol on the road in the West Bank City of Hebron, June 13, 2014. Israel's security forces on Friday continued a massive manhunt for three Jewish youths who went missing in the West Bank Thursday night. Fears have been raised that the three youths were kidnapped by Palestinian militants seeking the release of comrades incarcerated in Israeli prisons, local media said. (Xinhua/Mamoun Wazwaz)
JERUSALEM, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that three Israeli youths who went missing in the West Bank late Thursday have been abducted by militants.
"Our boys were kidnapped by a terrorist organization, clear and simple," Netanyahu said in a televised statement on Saturday night after lengthy consultations with his defense chiefs at the nation's military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
He said he could not divulge newly obtained intelligence information but that the government was doing "everything it can and more" to bring the victims home, demanding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas do "everything that's required" to assist these efforts.
"We view Abbas and the PA (Palestinian Authority) as responsible for any attack against Israel launched from their territory, either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip," said Netanyahu.
He dismissed the Palestinian claim that it dose not bear responsibility because the abduction took place in a West Bank area where Israel has full security control as "essentially unfounded."
Netanyahu said the abduction illustrated the inherent dangers of a newly sworn-in unity government sponsored by Abbas' Fatah party and Islamist group Hamas, reminding that his government has warned for months against the "harsh consequences" of the alliance.
"All terror organizations -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others -- are committed to Israel's destruction, and derive encouragement from this alliance ... which opens the door for a possible Hamas takeover of PA-controlled areas in the West Bank," said Netanyahu, who was to convene an extended cabinet meeting following the televised speech.
Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, who attended religious seminaries, were last seen late Thursday night getting on a vehicle at a remote hitchhiking spot in Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Saturday the three kidnapped Israelis were presumed to be alive.
"At the moment we are working under the assumption that they are alive," he told the media after a meeting with top military brass at a territorial brigade's headquarters in the West Bank.
Army chief of staff Benny Gantz and military intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi met on Saturday for what the Israeli military called "situation assessments," which also included Yoram Cohen and Tamir Pardo, the heads of the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad foreign intelligence agency.
While intelligence agencies were racing to obtain leads that could shed light on the victims' whereabouts and the identity of their presumed captors, the military reinforced already massive recovery operations in the southern West Bank with some 2,000 troops.
An elite brigade of paratroopers and an infantry battalion were deployed to the area on Saturday to aid the searches, and additional special forces were on their way, a senior military official said in a conference call with reporters.
"We need more boots on the ground to deal with this development and respond to leads coming in. We need to use all the tools at our disposal to bring this to a quick end," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He confirmed the military was working under the assumption that the teens were abducted by militants but that it could not confirm if they were alive or dead.
He said there was ongoing coordination with the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.
"They understand that this is not just another attack in the West Bank. This has profound meaning for us."
The investigation had made headway over the past 48 hours, the senior official said. However, he emphasized "We're facing a long, complicated affair that won't end within a few hours, despite all of the efforts being made."
In his televised remarks, Netanyahu said he instructed the military to prevent the possibility that the teens would be moved out of the West Bank to Gaza "or anywhere else" and prepare the forces for any scenario that might unravel.
The military was readying for the possibility of an escalation in violence in the West Bank and the troops deployed to the area on Saturday were camped at a training base in the southern Hebron Hills, a location from where they could be scrambled on short notice to deal with riots and impose a curfew or a closure on Palestinian-controlled areas.
The senior military official confirmed that Palestinians had been arrested in the Hebron area overnight Friday as part of the investigation. The arrests aimed "to get closer to the inner circle" were linked to the fate of the missing teens, he said.
Palestinian media reported that 12 people affiliated with Hamas, among them two women, were apprehended in overnight raids in the vicinity of Hebron and other locales in the West Bank. Two detainees, named as Iyad Abdul Nabi Shabana and Dirara Abu Munshar, were previously incarcerated in Israel, the semi-official Ma'an news agency said.
Defense Minister Ya'alon said on Saturday that plots to abduct Israelis in the West Bank were common, citing figures that 30 attempts were thwarted in 2013. Fourteen attempts were foiled since the beginning of this year.
"Apparently, this attempt went under our radar," he said.
JERUSALEM, June 14 (Xinhua) -- The three Israeli teens who have been missing since Thursday evening were kidnapped in the West Bank territories by a terrorist organization, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed in a public statement on Saturday.
"In light of the situation I cannot say everything, but I can say the following: our boys were kidnapped by a terrorist organization. There is no doubt about that," Netanyahu told reporters on Saturday, shortly after a security meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at the Israeli army's Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv. Full story
JERUSALEM, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Israel's defense minister said Saturday that three Jewish teenagers feared to have been kidnapped by Palestinian militants in the West Bank on Thursday night were presumed to be alive.
"At the moment we are working under the assumption that they are alive," Moshe Ya'alon told the media in his first public statement on the crisis. He said security forces will not cease their efforts to rescue the youths.Full story
RAMALLAH, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has instructed his security forces to help searching the three Israelis kidnapped on Thursday night in southern West Bank, a Palestinian said on Saturday.
President Abbas met with U.S. Consul in Jerusalem Michael Ratney in the West Bank city of Ramallah and officially informed him of the instructions given to the security forces in the West Bank, the official said.Full story