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Israel aims to break Hamas in hunt for missing youths
Published Tuesday 17/06/2014 (updated) 18/06/2014 22:53
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Israeli soldiers walk on a path in a single file during an operation
in the West Bank town of Hebron, on June 17, 2014
(AFP/Hazem Bader)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel stepped up efforts to clampdown on Hamas in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday as the hunt for three Israeli teenagers believed to be kidnapped entered its fifth day.

Thousands of Israel troops engaged in the search for the youths turned their attention during the night to Nablus and surrounding area, arresting 41 Palestinians, the army said.

So far, Israel has arrested around 200 Palestinians, most of them Hamas members, as it conducts a vast search operation for the students, two of them minors and one of whom lives in an illegal West Bank settlement.

Hebron has been on lock-down since the disappearances, with multiple checkpoints established around the city severely restricting the movement of thousands of Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused militants from the Islamist movement of kidnapping the youths last week, although Hamas dismissed the accusations as "stupid."

"We are here in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it may take time. This is a serious event and there will be serious consequences," Netanyahu said on Monday evening.

Israel has said it holds President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the safe return of the three, with Netanyahu phoning him to demand his help in the search efforts in what was their first direct political contact since 2012.

So far, there has been no formal claim of responsibility.

Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security services, said Friday that the PA was not responsible for the safety of settlers and noted that the teenagers disappeared from an area of the occupied West Bank under Israeli security control.

Smashing Hamas

At a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet on Monday, ministers decided to expand moves against Hamas in order to smash its political and social infrastructure in the West Bank, officials said.

"As long as our boys remain abducted, Hamas will feel pursued, paralyzed and threatened," said Lieutenant Peter Lerner, the military's official spokesman.

"We are committed to resolving the kidnapping and debilitating Hamas terrorist capacities, its infrastructure and its recruiting institutions," he said in a statement.

A series of punitive steps aimed at decapitating Hamas in the West Bank were discussed on Monday by ministers, who examined the possibility of banishing its senior members to Gaza and demolishing their homes in the West Bank, Israeli media reports said.

Ministers were reportedly meeting again on Tuesday.

"Israel has decided to perform a root canal to uproot everything green in the West Bank," said army radio, referring to the color representing Hamas.

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who was at the meeting, told the radio Israel had decided to "dramatically" change its approach to the Islamist movement.

"We will bring about a situation in which Hamas people will become a nuisance for the Palestinian population, and that their presence in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) will cause harm everywhere," he said.

Crackdown aims to thwart Palestinian reconciliation

Pundits said Israel was also seeking to bring about the collapse of a newly-formed Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas, the first fruits of a reconciliation deal between rival leaders in the West Bank and Gaza which has been furiously denounced by the Netanyahu government.

"The purpose of the Israeli actions ... is to drive a wedge between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and stop the reconciliation process that began some two months ago," wrote Amos Harel in Haaretz newspaper.

By crushing Hamas' infrastructure, it would weaken the movement ahead of Palestinian elections which under the unity deal are supposed to take place before the end of the year, Fishman, writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot, said.

"Removing the political leadership from the West Bank is supposed to weaken Hamas in advance of the Palestinian presidential elections," he said.

But as the manhunt entered its fifth day, commentators voiced concern about growing reports of clashes around the West Bank, sparking fears that an already tense situation could rapidly escalate.

On Monday, a 19-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by troops during clashes in Jalazun camp north of Ramallah. And during the night, troops shot and seriously wounded a Palestinian who was trying to infiltrate a Jewish settlement in the same area, military radio said.

In Gaza, the Israeli air force carried out a fourth straight night of air strikes after militants fired more rockets over the border.

Last Thursday, one Palestinian was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip. Two days later, seven-year-old Ali Abd al-Latif al-Awour died from wounds sustained in an Israeli airstrike last Wednesday.

Israel has killed over 60 Palestinians since last July and injured more than a thousand in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report
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1 ) JoeFattal / USA
17/06/2014 17:52
Israel seems more interested of cracking down on Hamas as a political group than as kidnappers. The crackdown is more on the reconciliation effort which is more obvious versus the teenagers recovery effort which is becoming more difficult because of Israel behavior if in fact they were kidnap. World opinion dispute the fact of a kidnapping than but an effort to undermine the PA unity effort with Hamas which Israel consider a terror group.

2 ) Paul / Kenya
17/06/2014 20:37
Israel out to kill two birds with one stone. Makes sense Joe - I think its pretty clever.

3 ) Simple / Solution
17/06/2014 20:42
Israel should break Hamas long time ago. Now they should level Gaza, just erase it.

4 ) Arnold / Canada
17/06/2014 21:15
JoeFattal #1. Whatever it takes to get back the kidnapped boys. I really do not give a rat's ..... what you or any other anti-Jewish /anti-Israel thinks. If Hamas gets wasted during this search then so much the better. For every action there is an equally great reaction. If Hamas reacts violently to this then it will escalate to the next step.

5 ) eko / uk
17/06/2014 21:15
All the terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas which rules the territory and the pro-Iranian Jihad Islami, have declared full mobilization of all their forces and set up a common war room for operations against Israel.

6 ) Ahmed / Michigan USA
17/06/2014 21:48
#1 What color is the sky in your world? Pal muslimes are rabid dogs with no humanity. These scum put bomb vests on women and children. The only good paleslimean is a ... just kidding, there aren't any.

7 ) Erik / South Africa
17/06/2014 22:42
The real question that needs to be asked: WHO BENEFITS FROM THIS "KIDNAPPING"?? In who's interests is this heinous crime?

8 ) Sarah / The Netherlands
17/06/2014 23:07
"Israel" just can't stand it US supported the new government. Now an American settler is "kidnapped" and what happens? Kerry agree with the zionists. Look... the new government, they are terrorists. Transparent. I think the 3 settlers are playing a video game at home right now. Palestinians are guilty till proven innocent. (zionist norm)

9 ) Outlier / USA
17/06/2014 23:12
Likely an unintended consequence, but a consequence nevertheless. Whether taking action or not taking action, one should always consider consequences.

10 ) Mel / USA
18/06/2014 00:43
Cont:"King Bibi"said in Nov.1989(Bar Ilan Univ.)"Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of the demonstrations in(Tiananmen Sq),when the world's attention was(distracted)to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories".Then,in 2009,Bibi vowed "to crush the rule of Hamas"& have the military"mow the lawn"(persecute/bomb/torture)Gazan civilians,ALL to remove Hamas & JUDAIZE the final piece of land 'tween WB,Negev&Gaza(the Bedouin block).This isn't about 3 lost Jews!

11 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
18/06/2014 00:56
Joe - glad you are such a security affaris expert from 8000 miles away behind your keyboard in America. You haven't got the faintest idea of what is going on on the ground here, so please do get up on your soapbox and show us all the great armchair general that you are.

12 ) Alana Turing / UK
18/06/2014 00:57
This is looking more & more like a politically motivated set up, whereby Israel gets to do its worst whilst playing victim to the international community. For sure the target in all of this is Hamas, Netanyahu wants to break Hamas & the unity government. Problem is at some point, provocation will prove too much & a situation will develop that will be very hard to control (all courtesy of Israel). Manipulation like this is sickening & disgusting to watch. Hope boys found & Palestine stays calm.

13 ) KAGH / US
18/06/2014 01:52
Is Israel actually searching for the missing young men or is it cynically using this along with public sympathy to break the backs of Palestinians living in the West Bank, as it stands Israel right now can get away with anything it does, all it has to do is pin Hamas on whom ever it kills whatever it raids but the real aim here is to bring down the Unity government and crush any international support it has

14 ) @ Joe-1 / USA too
18/06/2014 03:48
- Israel's government takes works for the welfare of 8 million Israelis, so Probably Israel is interested in "Killing Two Birds With One Stone", and - Since Hamas' abduction of the 3 teens made this possible, maybe "Hamas the political group" should rethink the abductions, terrorism, and armed resistance strategy, which will give Israel the excuse it needs ("hunting for missing youths"), to break Hamas as the political group !!

15 ) Kidnapping Is Not Terrorism / USA
18/06/2014 04:05
- Israeli Arab Leader Hanin Zoabi says that "the kidnappers had a right to fight Israel by kidnapping children because they have no other choice", and Palestinians Arabs that accept this should also realize, that - Israel has a right to fight Palestine by deporting or killing Palestinians because "they too have no other choice," or way to live in peace, and - This "Right" To Violence Is A Double Edged Sword, that cuts both !!!

16 ) Jewel47 / Netherlands
18/06/2014 09:49
My fear is even that the "kidnapping" is another trick of the Israeli secret police to break Palestinian resistence. The ruling by deviding is working for the last years and now the reconciliation is a fact Israel faces the reality it has lost that battlefield..... As it happened so often in the past. Palestinians got the blame but Israel was the one that made it happen!

17 ) Ahmed / Israel
18/06/2014 11:00
Well, cracking down on Hamas is a good idea in it's own right. Hamas is not a legitimate political group - the destruction of Israel is part of it's platform, he deals in attacks against civilians regularly and operates from with the civilian population, and it spreads anti-Jewish propaganda constantly.

18 ) Rami / Palestine
18/06/2014 11:22
#1 Rest assured that none of this has anything to do with finding the 3 teens who may or may not have been kidnapped. Their disappearance, rather, is a moment of convenience for Netanyahu who was searching for the appropriate opportunity to destroy Palestine and found it. There is no evidence whatsoever that Hamas have kidnapped these teens but that does not matter to Netanyahu. He already determined the results of an investigation before it has begun and the world ate it in spoonfuls as usual.

19 ) Outlier / USA
20/06/2014 00:20
18., Rami, if you have information the rest of us do not, you should enlighten us. Otherwise, your comment is simply hot air.
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