Israeli security forces through the weekend and into Monday launched a large-scale operation across the West Bank in search of three Israeli teenagers who authorities fear were abducted overnight by Palestinians seeking to trade them for terrorists held by Jerusalem. One of the abducted teens is reportedly an American-Israeli dual citizen, an issue that among other things came up during Monday’s State Department briefing.
Palestinian prisoners celebrated at the news that the three students were missing and thought kidnapped.
Some of those prisoners had within the last month been exposed as plotting to coordinate similar kidnappings. Late May had also seen the capture of a Palestinian infiltrator who aimed at kidnapping Israelis, and a little later news emerged that 11 full-blown kidnapping attempts had been thwarted by Israeli intelligence services this year (the Israeli Prime Minister’s Arab media spokesperson clarified amid the search efforts that the number had subsequently risen to 14).
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group reacted to Friday’s developments by urging Palestinians to kidnap Israeli civilians:
Speaking during a protest in the Gaza Strip, Khaled Albatsh urged Palestinian leaders to come up with a detailed plan that would ensure a massive release of prisoners held in Israeli security facilities.
“Our war against the enemy is raging,” Albatsh said, according to Maariv. “We must find the ways and means to release our prisoners, we must devise a clear plan to free them.”
Albatsh further called on members of his organization to target Jewish settlers in the West Bank
For its part Hamas called for broader violent uprising after news of the suspected kidnapping broke:
Husam Badran, Hamas’ international spokesman in Gaza, posted Friday on Facebook calling for Palestinians in the West Bank to impede the Israeli army’s movement around the West Bank, particularly in the Hebron area, where three Israeli teens are feared kidnapped.
“This is a chance to widen the sphere of resistance and return the West Bank to its natural place as the focal point of the struggle and resistance,” Badran was quoted as saying on Hamas’ official website, under the headline “Hamas calls on West Bank citizens to declare intifada.”
The celebrations and exhortations from various Palestinian factions – up to and especially from Hamas, which recently partnered with its traditional Fatah rivals to form a unity cabinet – will have diplomatic consequences, regardless of whether and how the students are found. The Palestinians have argued that last month’s unity pact was a vital prerequisite to creating a government entity willing and capable of making peace with Jerusalem.
The stance was echoed by international backers of the move, including the United States. The last few days have seen rocket fire from the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip and celebrations of an apparently kidnapping in Fatah-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Secretary of State John Kerry that “the situation on the ground has been destructive” since a new consensus cabinet was formed, and that Israel holds the Palestinian government responsible for crisis.
[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube]