JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH, June 18 (Xinhua) -- A massive military operation to retrieve three Jewish teens allegedly abducted by militants in the West Bank last week continued on Wednesday with the arrests of dozens of Palestinians.
Israeli forces arrested 65 Palestinians in overnight raids across the West Bank and 51 of them Hamas members who were previously incarcerated in Israeli jails and released in exchange for an Israeli soldier in 2011, the army said.
In total, the Israeli military has arrested some 240 Palestinians, the majority of them Hamas members, in a series of raids which the army dubs "Operation Brother's Keeper," an effort to locate the teens who studied at a religious seminary and disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank Thursday night.
The Israeli army raided over 800 locations, storming through Palestinian homes and searching public institutions, confiscating hundreds of weapons along the way, according to the army.
The Israeli operations focused on the cities of Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Jenin.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya 'alon have vowed in recent days to exact "a heavy price" from Hamas, the Islamist militant group that they have accused of perpetrating the abductions. Hamas has dismissed the accusation, calling it "stupid."
A Palestinian armed group aligned with the Fatah movement, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, claimed on Monday that they have kidnapped the three teens, but two smaller West Bank groups had also claimed responsibility. None of the claims have been confirmed.
Despite the various claims, Israel still blames Hamas for the abduction, saying their involvement was "a fact."
The 51 Hamas affiliates arrested overnight were among 1,027 Palestinians released in a landmark deal between Israel and Hamas in 2011 that saw the release of Gilad Schalit, a former tank crewman who spent five years in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip.
A senior security source was quoted as saying that they had violated the terms of their release, including an obligation to refrain from rejoining Hamas or other militant groups and engaging in anti-Israel activities.
Netanyahu on Wednesday commended the security forces for the latest arrests.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Deputy Minister of Prisoner Affairs Ziad Abu Ain said Israel's plans are a dangerous escalation that could lead to a regional crisis.
He described the Israeli security details as "an act of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians."
Also overnight Tuesday, security forces raided the Hebron and Ramallah offices of the Al-Aqsa radio station affiliated with Hamas, confiscating equipment and documents and shutting down broadcasts.
Other civil institutions in the West Bank have also been raided, as part of efforts to obtain intelligence information on their links and support for Hamas, the army said.
JERUSALEM, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Israeli security forces arrested 41 Hamas operatives in raids carried out in the West Bank overnight Tuesday, as a massive manhunt to retrieve three Israeli teenagers abducted by militants entered the fifth day.
The Israeli military said that most of the arrests were made in the vicinity of the Palestinian city of Nablus. Nearly 1,000 infantry troops entered the Balata refugee camp and the nearby town of Awarta, where weapons and explosives had also been discovered and confiscated, Army Radio said. Full Story
JERUSALEM, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Monday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, asking him to assist finding the three allegedly kidnapped teens, according to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office.
"I expect you to assist in returning the abducted youths and in apprehending the kidnappers," Netanyahu told Abbas, according to the statement. Full story