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Israel tightens noose around Hebron as home raids continue

June 15, 2014 2:08 A.M. (Updated: June 16, 2014 10:23 A.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- For the second consecutive day, Israeli forces on Sunday continued a major military operation in Hebron in the southern West Bank in search of three Israeli teenagers who disappeared Thursday evening near the Gush Etzion settlement.

Although Israeli forces bombarded the Gaza Strip and detained 80 Palestinians across the West Bank overnight, Hebron has taken the brunt of the Israeli response.

Israeli forces have erected checkpoints throughout the city and nearby villages, and since Friday morning have engaged in dozens of raids on private homes around the clock.

A Ma'an reporter on the scene said on Sunday that Israeli forces closed Hebron's northern entrance with a steel gate and large concrete blocks preventing Palestinian pedestrians and vehicles from moving in and out.

Israeli troops also erected checkpoints at the main roads in the Nabi Younis and Hawawir neighborhoods north of Hebron, inspecting all Palestinians traveling in and out of Hebron.

Israeli forces have detained 43 people from Hebron area since the beginning of the crisis on Friday morning, according to Hebron branch of the Palestinian Prisoner's society.

Despite the Israeli military operation, the residents of Hebron have continued trying to continue daily life as normal. Shops and stores have remained open, but few people were seen in the streets.

Public transportation operated normally, but the movement of private vehicles was less than usual as a result of the heavy military presence.

A shop owner named Muhammad told Ma'an that residents of Hebron have avoided going to the markets out of fear that the ongoing house-to-house Israeli incursions would continue.

People are afraid that Israelis will break into their homes while they are out, so they preferred to remain inside, he added.

Palestinian police officers are operated normally in Hebron, a Ma'an reporter on the scene said.

On Thursday night, three Israeli youths disappeared while attempting to hitchhike from the Jewish-only Gush Etzion settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli authorities have said the Palestinian Authority has responsibility for the settlers' safety and has accused Hamas members of kidnapping the youths, charges Hamas has called "stupid."

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, has stressed that they have no responsibility for the settlers' safety, as they were captured in the 62 percent of the West Bank under Israeli military and civilian control.

The case has attracted widespread attention in Israel and led to a fervent campaign for their return under the banner "Bring Back Our Boys."

Palestinians, however, have contrasted the attention received by the three settler youth with the lack of concern for the fate of around 200 Palestinians who are currently being held indefinitely without charge or trial in Israeli prisons, including 125 who have been on hunger strike for more than 50 days.

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