JERUSALEM, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Israeli army arrested about 80 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on Sunday morning as part of its efforts to find three abducted Israeli teenagers, the military said in a statement.
The 80 Palestinians, among them top members of Hamas, and members of the group's Legislative Council, were arrested in and around Hebron and across the West Bank in a joint military, police and Shin Bet operation, the military said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military imposed closures on Palestinian cities in the West Bank, centered on the city of Hebron and its environs beginning at midnight on Sunday, and a closure of Bethlehem went into effect hours later.
A senior military source said that the closures and arrests aimed at strengthening the efforts to collect intelligence on the whereabouts of the three Jewish teens. The current massive manhunt involves more than 2,000 military forces.
The three kidnapped yeshiva students, two of them aged 16 and the other 19, who attended a religious high school in the West Bank, were kidnapped by a terrorist organization when they were returning to their homes for the weekend Thursday night.
A HAMAS PLOT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas were behind the missing of the three Israeli teenagers.
"Today I can say that the kidnap was executed by Hamas," Netanyahu said at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting, which was relocated to the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. "This has grave consequences," he warned. "The aim of this activity is to tighten the circle of intelligence," an army source told Ynet news website.
On Saturday night after lengthy consultations with his defense chiefs at the nation's military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said in a televised statement that his 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 Palestinian National 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 bears no 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.
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.
ABBAS OFFERS SEARCH HELP
Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Abbas has instructed his security forces to help searching the three kidnapped on Thursday night in southern West Bank.
Abbas met with U.S. Consul in Jerusalem Michael Ratney in the West Bank city of Ramallah, and informed him of the search efforts, a Palestinian official said.
"President Abbas told Ratney that although the three Israelis were disappeared in area that is under the full Israeli security control in southern West Bank, the security forces will help finding them," he added.
The Palestinian official also said that the United States refused to hold the Palestinian National Authority responsible for what had happened, but called on the Palestinians to move on all levels to resolve the problem.
Also on Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the West Bank abduction, and called for their immediate release in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
Ban expressed "his deep concern about the trend toward violence on the ground and attendant loss of life, including today of a child in Gaza as a result of a recent Israeli airstrike."
"The Secretary-General urges all to exercise restraint and lend their urgent support for the release and safe return of the three youths," the statement said.
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. Full Story
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