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Israel tightens West Bank grip as Abbas blasts kidnappers
Published Wednesday 18/06/2014 (updated) 25/06/2014 16:14
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Israeli soldiers take part in a search operation for three Israeli
teenagers believed kidnapped by Palestinian militants, on June
18, 2014 in the West Bank village of Tapuah, west of Hebron
(AFP/Hazem Bader)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel tightened its grip on the West Bank on Wednesday, arresting another 65 people, as President Mahmoud Abbas lashed out at those behind the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers.

As the hunt for the youths entered its sixth day, there was no let-up in Israel's drive to deal a crushing blow to the West Bank infrastructure of Hamas, which it has blamed for the kidnapping.

But as troops pressed their biggest arrest operation in years, imposing a tight lock-down on huge swathes of the West Bank, Abbas blasted those behind the teens' disappearance, saying they were trying to "destroy" the Palestinian people.

And he defended the security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, sparking a furious denunciation by Hamas.

"Those who kidnapped the three teenagers want to destroy us. We will hold them accountable," Abbas told a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia.

"It is in our interest to have security coordination with Israel, because that would help protect us," he said.

"We will never have another intifada (Palestinian uprising) -- that would destroy us."

Hamas denounced his remarks as "harmful" to a fledgling reconciliation deal between it and the Palestinian leadership, which saw an interim government of technocrats replace rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza earlier this month.

The exchange was the first public sign of a major dispute between the sides since the unity deal was signed in April, ending years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry.

Pundits have said Israel is seeking to use the massive military operation in the West Bank to bring about the collapse of the newly formed unity government, established with the backing of its Islamist foe.

A Palestinian girl stands in a bedroom that is in a mess after
Israeli forces searched the house on June 17, 2014 at the Balata
refugee camp.(AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

'Unjustified, harmful'

"President Abbas' statements on security coordination with Israel are unjustified, harmful to Palestinian reconciliation," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

The Palestinian leader's remarks in Jeddah were also "a psychological blow to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners suffering a slow death in the occupation's jails," he said, referring to around 5,000 detainees being held by Israel.

Israel will be held responsible for the "consequences" of their actions, Abu Zuhri told Ma'an, warning Israel against plans to expel Hamas leaders from the West Bank.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directly accused Hamas militants of being behind the kidnapping, the movement has dismissed his claims as "stupid."

So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for the teens' disappearance.

Ramadan disruptions likely

Overnight, Israeli troops arrested another 65 Palestinians, among them 51 who had been released as part of the Shalit deal, in a move hailed by Netanyahu as sending "an important message."

Since the searches began early Friday, troops have arrested 240 Palestinians, searched more than 800 locations and raided 10 Hamas-run institutions, the army said.

But despite days of intensive military operations, there appeared to be no end in sight, with troops focusing on the southern city of Hebron and the surrounding area.

"They kicked the door in at 7:30 a.m this morning and told us to leave ... If our relatives didn't live here, we'd have ended up on the street," said Umm Amr, a mother of four who lives in Taffuh village.

"I don't think they'll find the missing Israelis in the bathroom or the washing machine," snapped another woman sarcastically after soldiers also forced their way into her home.

"A lot of time will pass until the situation in the West Bank returns to what it was, if it ever does," an Israeli military official told the Hebrew-language daily Maariv.

Other officials said "Operation Brother's Keeper" was likely to run into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins at the end of June.

"My feeling is their Ramadan is going to be disrupted," a senior military official told Haaretz, another Israeli newspaper, acknowledging that life in the West Bank was becoming increasingly difficult for the Palestinian population.

Military officials quoted by the paper said the normal easing of security measures during the fasting month were "liable to be suspended."

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
1 ) JoeFattal / USA
18/06/2014 19:16
I still can't get it. How Israel know that the disappearance of the teengagers has something to do with the Palestinians in general not only Hamas. Reminds of the three hitchhikers that were caught by Iran, and one of them was an Israeli citizen. Maybe they wander away someplace, maybe out of the area completely, maybe they found few attractive Palestinian girls and elope with them. How can they go indiscriminatory and disrupt half of the population having no proof who has them, or maybe

2 ) Colin Wright / USA
18/06/2014 19:18
'...teenagers...' I don't see why you keep referring to the missing settlers as 'teenagers.' They weren't seized because they were teenagers, but because they were settlers. Also, the use of the term 'kidnapped' implies that there was something reprehensible about capturing them.

3 ) JoeFattal / USA
18/06/2014 19:27
Cont' they know who has them. I don't believe Israel can be that stupid to react with such violence not knowing who has them. Too much spontaneous reaction on behalve of Israel leave me to believe they have them hiding somewhere. And blaming Hamas to be the kidnappers, and judging them because of their history is a very uneducated guess from their part. They at it again to disrupt and disunite the Palestinians that work so hard at it in the last few years. Israel needs to give the world

4 ) JoeFattal / USA
18/06/2014 19:41
Cont,. proof that the Palestinians or Hamas has anything to do with it before they start acting like bunch of savages that they are, and they talking about Hamas a terrorist group. The way they act shows what they are by terrorizing neighborhoods, families and children and expect to open a certain door and voila there they are. How Israel can they prove the Palestinians/Hamas has them, they can't. Maybe the Syrians, the Iranians might have them, or they have them.

5 ) Kerry / RoI
18/06/2014 19:55
Smash Hamas’ political, terror, military and financial infrastructures.

6 ) ronen / israel
18/06/2014 20:28
colin - "They weren't seized because they were teenagers, but because they were settlers." with american record in the middle east there is nothing reprehensible about capturing you too.

7 ) Arnold / Canada
18/06/2014 20:51
Joe Fattal and Colin Wright. Both of the USA. Amazing how you are both looking for excuses to give the Palestinians yet another "pass" on this kidnapping charge. And Colin even has the gall to to say that the kidnapping is not "reprehensible" ..... like Boko Harum's kidnapping of the Nigerian girls is not reprehensible ! ! ! !

8 ) Maureen / Australia
18/06/2014 22:03
#4 JoeFattal "... the Syrians, the Iranians..." hmm, and even the Iraqis, Lebanese. Israel has sure made a lot of enemies for itself! In fact it is the continued double standards of USrael that is setting the whole Middle East in a state of horror.

9 ) Anger / Anglo
18/06/2014 22:09
Yeah, sure Hamas took your settler teens. Just blame Hamas for everything. Certainly not ISIS who believes a Sharia law regime needs to be implanted in Israel
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