Israeli soldiers patrol the West Bank city of Hebron on June 16, 2014. Israeli military forces continued to search for the three Jewish teenagers who went missing while hitchhiking in Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc in the West Bank on Thursday. (Xinhua/Mamoun Wazwaz)
JERUSALEM, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Israel's military chief said on Monday that the army was readying far-reaching measures to recover the three Israeli teens who are allegedly abducted by Hamas militants in the West Bank last Thursday.
"We're heading towards an extensive operation," Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told some senior officers at the army's Central Command, as a massive manhunt for the three youths entered its fourth day on Monday.
He said the only objective is to "find them, bring them home, crack down on Hamas as hard as possible and move forward," he said.
The comment comes as all branches of the country's security forces continued combing the West Bank, with dozens of Hamas lawmakers and senior operatives arrested in raids across the region overnight and early on Monday.
The military said that over 40 suspects had been arrested, among whom former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Duwaik, bringing the number of Palestinians detained since Saturday to 150.
Israel is considering deporting some of arrested to the Gaza Strip, according to local media.
The arrests came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that the Gaza-based Islamist Hamas movement perpetrated the abduction, warning that "severe repercussions" would follow.
On Monday, a Palestinian armed group aligned with the Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, alleging that they have detained the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers.
However, Israel still blames Hamas for the abduction, saying their involvement was "a fact."
According to media reports, clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinians occurred in several places in the West Bank. Two Palestinians were reportedly wounded Sunday night in the city of Hebron when Israeli troops fired a missile at a house they were hiding in.
Palestinian medics and witnesses said that a 20-year-old Palestinian young man was killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank city of Ramallah during confrontations between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers.
Spokesman's office of the Israel Defense Forces claimed the youth a terror operative, saying he was killed during an attempt to arrest him at the Jilazon refugee camp.
It said a violent riot erupted during the arrest operation, and that troops opened fire after they deemed their lives were under threat.
Israel's Netanyahu says bringing back abducted teens could take time
JERUSALEM, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday addressed the nation, warning that Israel must be ready that it takes time to find the three abducted Israeli teens.
"We are in the middle of a complex operation," Netanyahu said, as the search for the three teens, who were presumably abducted by Hamas in the West Bank, entered its fourth day. Full story