The United States on Wednesday called on both Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint as Israelis tightened their grip on the West Bank hunting for three kidnapped teenagers.
“We recognize this is an incredibly sensitive and difficult circumstance on the ground, and we feel all sides should exercise restraint,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Israeli troops have pressed their biggest arrest operation in years, imposing a tight lockdown on huge swathes of the West Bank in the hunt for the three boys kidnapped six days ago.
So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for the teens’ disappearance, though Israel has blamed the Islamist Hamas organization.
Since the Israeli searches began early Friday, troops have arrested 240 Palestinians, searched more than 800 locations and raided 10 Hamas-run institutions, the army said.
On Wednesday, an army official said the operations would continue unabated.
The Shin Bert security service was also reportedly authorized to intensify interrogation methods, but that claim was denied by military officials, according to Israel Radio.
Gilad Sha-ar and Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach, went missing late Thursday from a popular hitchhiking spot in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem.
Psaki confirmed Wednesday that Fraenkel is also a US citizen and said US officials had been in touch with his family.
“We urge both sides to exercise restraint and avoid the types of steps that could destabilize the situation,” she warned.
US officials have been in touch with both Israelis and Palestinians since the kidnappings.
“We know this is a difficult time, obviously, on the ground,” she said, adding Washington was urging continued security cooperation between the two sides.