Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel’s leadership to condemn the deaths of two Palestinians last week during West Bank search efforts for three kidnapped teens, and rejected the conclusion that the Hamas terror group was necessarily behind the abduction, in an interview published early Sunday morning.
Questioning whether Israel’s massive operation in the West Bank to find the teens and crack down on Hamas was justified, Abbas said the deaths of two Palestinians, including a 14-year-old boy, from Israeli fire during search operations should be condemned, just as he had condemned the kidnapping.
“I said the kidnapping was criminal. But does it justify the killing of Palestinian youth in cold blood?” he told the Haaretz newspaper. “What does [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu have to say about the killings? Will he condemn them?”
Mohammed Dadoon, 14, was killed during clashes with Israeli troops in the town of Dura, outside Hebron, on Friday. At least three other Palestinians were injured by live Israeli fire during other protests around the West Bank that day.
Earlier in the week, a 20-year-old Palestinian man was killed during a clash with troops outside Ramallah.
Since the June 12 kidnapping of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, who were last seen at a hitchhiking post south of Jerusalem, thousands of Israeli troops have searched hundreds of locations in the West Bank and arrested more than 350 Palestinians, many from Hamas, including some who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange for Hamas-kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Israeli officials have publicly stated that in addition to rescuing the teens, weakening Hamas and breaking up the Palestinian unity government are goals in the operation.
Abbas condemned the kidnapping and has made public appeals for the three to be returned, reportedly promising to continue the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel in the search.
He told Haaretz that the PA had foiled 43 kidnapping plots against Israelis since 2013.
Netanyahu has fingered Hamas as behind the abduction, and called on Abbas to nullify the unity pact with the terror group, but Abbas told the Israeli newspaper that he was not convinced Hamas was behind the abduction.
“I don’t plan to punish anyone based on suspicions or because Netanyahu claims something,” he said. “If Netanyahu has information, he should update me and we’ll take care of it according to our laws.”
Hamas has praised the abduction, but has denied responsibility.
“If Hamas is behind it, and nobody knows up until now, then it will be a blow to the reconciliation process,” Maliki said.
“If we reach that conclusion, then the president will take drastic decisions.”