Israeli forces continue searching for missing teens

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HEBRON, West Bank — Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces are car­ry­ing out night raids and mass ar­rests in one of the larg­est se­cu­rity sweeps seen in years in the West Bank, as they in­ten­sify their search for three miss­ing teen­agers who Is­rael says were kid­napped by mem­bers of the Isla­mist mil­i­tant or­ga­ni­za­tion Ha­mas.

Mil­i­tary drones cir­cled and teth­ered-ob­ser­va­tion bal­loons hov­ered over He­bron on the third day of a lock­down by Is­raeli forces, nearly four days af­ter the teens dis­ap­peared on the out­skirts of town.

As the se­cu­rity cor­don tight­ened, Pal­es­tin­ian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mahmoud Ab­bas on Mon­day con­demned, for the first time, the al­leged kid­nap­ping of the miss­ing stu­dents, ages 16 to 19, who van­ished Thurs­day night while hitch­hik­ing home from their re­li­gious schools in the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank.

Mr. Ab­bas also de­nounced the on­go­ing Is­raeli mil­i­tary re­sponse to the dis­ap­pear­ances, which re­sulted in the kill­ing of one Pal­es­tin­ian in a clash with Is­raeli sol­diers at a ref­u­gee camp out­side Ramal­lah. More than 150 Pal­es­tin­ians have been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the case. Daoud Za­tari, mayor of He­bron, said in an in­ter­view that he vis­ited two of the homes raided early Mon­day by Is­raeli forces. The troops used ex­plo­sives to en­ter the houses and brought dogs, and they scat­tered food and be­long­ings on the floors, he said. The mayor ac­cused Is­rael of en­forc­ing a col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment on a mu­nic­i­pal­ity of 750,000 peo­ple, who have seen the main en­trance into the city closed by Is­raeli au­thor­i­ties, and their roads rum­bling with troop con­voys.

“We are in the midst of a com­plex op­er­a­tion,” Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­ja­min Netan­yahu said Mon­day. “We need to be pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity that it may take time.”

Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces have de­clined to of­fer any ev­i­dence that Ha­mas is be­hind the al­leged ab­duc­tions, partly be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, they say. But their sweep has fo­cused on mem­bers of Ha­mas, a move­ment that con­trols the Gaza Strip and is con­sid­ered a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion by Is­rael and the United States.

The West Bank is gov­erned by the Pal­es­tin­ian Au­thor­ity, dom­i­nated by the Fa­tah po­lit­i­cal party of Mr. Ab­bas, which re­cently won the sup­port of long­time ri­val Ha­mas to form a tran­si­tional Pal­es­tin­ian unity gov­ern­ment. That deal has been roundly crit­i­cized by Is­rael, which in re­cent days has said it would hold Mr. Ab­bas ac­count­able for the kid­nap­pings it says were car­ried out by Ha­mas.

Mr. Netan­yahu said Mon­day that Is­rael would con­tinue to re­tal­i­ate against at­tacks from Gaza.

israel - United States military - United States government - Middle East - Mahmoud Abbas - Palestinian territories - Israeli armed forces - Israel government - Palestinian territories government - West Bank - Gaza Strip - Benjamin Netanyahu - Hamas - Hebron


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