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Israel PM calls Abbas, says expects help finding teens

June 16, 2014 12:50 P.M. (Updated: June 18, 2014 3:56 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday telephoned President Mahmoud Abbas and said he expected him to help ensure the safe return of three kidnapped teenagers, a statement said.

Abbas' office also issued a statement condemning both the kidnapping of the three youths and the results of a massive Israeli crackdown to find the perpetrators.

"I expect you to help in the return of the kidnapped youths and the capture of the kidnappers," Netanyahu told the Palestinian leader.

It was their first telephone conversation in nearly a year, and came as Israeli forces conducted the biggest arrest operation in years, focusing predominantly on Hamas movement, which Netanyahu has accused of kidnapping the three youths in the southern West Bank.

"The Hamas kidnappers went out from territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority and returned to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority," Netanyahu told him.

Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security services, said Friday that the PA was not responsible for the safety of settlers and had no way to prevent the possible kidnapping of the teenagers.

Dmeiri said the PA had no information about the missing settlers, and noted that Gush Etzion, the settlement from which the teenagers are believed to have disappeared, "is under Israeli security control."

"And the PA is not responsible for the security of settlers," he added.

Abbas' office did not immediately confirm the telephone conversation, but issued a statement in which he condemned the kidnapping and also hit out at the massive Israeli crackdown aimed at finding those responsible.

"The Palestinian presidency... condemns the series of events that happened last week, beginning with the kidnapping of three Israeli youths," it said, but also denouncing a massive wave of Israeli arrests during which a young Palestinian was killed near Ramallah overnight.

"The presidency reaffirms the importance of neither side resorting to violence," it said, also hailing the efforts of the Palestinian security forces in "keeping the peace" and preventing the territories from being "dragged into chaos and instability".

On Monday, Israeli soldiers killed 20-year-old Ahmad Sabarin during an arrest raid in Ramallah's al-Jalazun refugee camp.

The raids are part of a wide-ranging campaign to locate the three Israeli youths, identified as Gilad Shaer, 16, from Talmon settlement near Ramallah, Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, from Elad, both in central Israel.

Thousands of Israeli soldiers were deployed in the Hebron area following the incident, with near constant raids on Palestinian homes.

Over 150 Palestinians have been detained in the current arrest campaign.
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